Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dust in the wind... RIP Original XBOX LIVE

Launched back in November of 2002 for the original XBOX, XBOX LIVE brought online console gaming to the forefront. Allowing gamers to create their own unique identities that could then be used to compete in various battlegrounds with players from all over the world. XBOX LIVE also worked as an online marketplace which gaming studios could provide additional downloadable content to extend the life of their games.

XBOX LIVE evolved in 2005 with the launch of the XBOX 360 with the advent of achievements and a Gamerscore which has allowed players to compete with each other on a whole new level. This new XBOX LIVE has seen many more additions such as an improved marketplace, Netflix, and the new retro Games Room to name a few. XBOX LIVE has now reached a staggering 23 million users as of February 2010.

Alas all good things must come to an end, at least for the older generation XBOX. This past week on April 15th, 2010 marked the final day of XBOX LIVE service for the original XBOX, it's backwards compatibility on the 360 and any downloadable content. It's a sad day as I'm sure we all have fond memories of gaming on the original XBOX. I'd have to say playing Counter-Strike with my buddies from Aurora (and a certain Black Caesar) was by far my favorite memory of the previous XBOX LIVE generation, what's yours?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cataclysm Class Discussion: Warrior (Part 2)

Possibly the most widely contested class in all of WoW, the Warrior has gotten some pretty interesting changes that should make for a completely new, and welcome, experience. Among them are changes to the rage system, the removal of "on next swing" timers, and interesting take on dual wielding, and some very intriguing new abilities.

Let's start by taking a look at the 3 new abilities Blizzard has planned for us Warriors:

1. Inner Rage (trained at 81)

Once the warrior reaches 100% rage he enters into an enraged state causing all attacks to cost an additional 50% rage but also do an additional 15% damage for an undisclosed period of time (I imagine it will be rather short, probably less than 10 seconds). Think of it as a "Limit Break" (Final Fantasy 7 style) where if you let your rage buildup you can unleash some very nasty attacks. Unfortunately with the current rage model (the system in which warriors gain rage to attack), players with lower tier gear will probably never find themselves taking advantage of this ability. Personally as a Fury Warrior myself, I think this definitely adds another level of strategy rather than mindless rotation mashing, however I'm a little nervous at the increased rage cost at 50% while the increased damage is only 15%, to me it almost doesn't seem worth it.

2. Gushing Wound (trained at 83)

Think Rend on steroids. For those of you who aren't familiar with warrior abilities, Rend is just simply a warriors go-to DOT (damage over time) ability. Gushing Wound is set to replace Rend by allowing it to gain up to 3 stacks, which would increase both it's damage output and longevity. Interestingly though is how you cause it to gain stacks. Traditionally you would just have to keep mashing the ability (think Sunder Armor) but with Gushing Wound you get stacks whenever the target moves, and the duration also refreshes. With that in mind it will be curious to see if kiting a boss will now be an effective way to dps (damage per second) or if the traditional tank and spank will still take prevalence in which case Gushing Wound will unfortunately be a PvP only ability.

3. Heroic Leap (trained at 85)

I'm not entirely sure what Blizzard is thinking with this one, and really all I want to do is /facepalm. The ability causes the warrior to leap in the air at a targeted area (not sure yet if it is targeted by the user like a mage's Blizzard, or if it will be using an enemy target as the center of the effective area) dealing massive damage and applying the thunderclap debuff to anything caught in the effective area. This isn't the first time Blizzard has attempted to bring back "Leap Attack" from Diablo 2 and while it sounds interesting and "fun" I believe that it's an ability that is very lacking in practicality. I would assume like all "ranged" abilities that it will have a min distance so warriors will only ever be able to use it to begin an encounter or to escape from the fire in PvE environments. So that leaves PvP, where even then it would only be beneficial to use it in a large group of enemies, and I don't think I remember the last time I saw a mage doing Blizzard in a Battleground...

Abilities and Mechanic Changes

Unlike other classes, many of the coming mechanic changes have a significant impact on warriors. First and foremost is the removal of "On next melee swing" timers, so abilities like Heroic Strike and Cleave will now be instant and will most likely be tweaked in both damage and rage cost accordingly. This is a pretty huge change on it's own as it will throw a wrench in the warrior DPS rotation. Normally the Fury priority rotation goes roughly along the lines of Bloodthirst > Whirlwind > Slam (if it's up) > Heroic strike always up (providing you have the rage... also this is a rough rotation on a single target, for a detailed rotation just send me a message and I'll be glad to assist). That rotation however hinges on the fact that Heroic strike doesn't eat up a GCD (global cooldown) as it's a swing alteration ability. With the upcoming change though warriors will have to fit it into the rotation, same with cleave.

Another huge change for warriors is that shouts (Battle Shout, Commanding Shout, Demoralizing Shout etc...) will now cost no rage and in fact will generate rage but will last for a shorter duration of time. Working much like that of a Death Knight's Horn of Winter where you will get a buff and a burst of resources allowing you to kick start your attack. This will work great for newer less geared warriors who have problems generating rage but for higher geared players this change will most likely have little effect unless the changes to rage generation are extremely drastic.

Lastly are some of the ability tweaks that will be rolled out in Cataclysm. For all you Arms PvP warriors out there unfortunately your Mortal Strike healing debuff is being reduced to 20% as the healing in Cataclysm is not going to be as ridiculously high as it is now. For all the Fury PvE warriors out there, Whirlwind will now be hitting an unlimited amount of targets, however it will only hit for 50% of weapon damage now. So expect to only use Whirlwind in big packs of mobs and remove it from your single target rotation. For the tanks (and the unlucky dps warriors who don't raid with a protection warrior) Sunder Armor is being changed to a maximum of 3 stacks down from 5 so it's less of a punishment to get them originally up there, and easier to get back if they fall off during the encounter.

Talent Changes and Additions

With the new talent changes being rolled out the lines blurring Arms and Fury are finally being completely dissolved. Whereas at the beginning of Wrath of the Lich King, Arms was the most viable DPS spec as it gave the best return on the lower tier gear. Now Arms is being tailored specifically towards PvP with changes such as Disarming Nature, a new talent that causes successful disarms to fear the target for 5-10 seconds and Blitz which causes Charge to do increased damage depending on the duration of your Charge. Fury will now become the go-to PvE DPS spec with talent changes like Furious Sundering which will allow Fury warriors to apply the sunder armor debuff while still causing 50% weapon damage and reducing threat generated by 100%. This is a huge talent as previously warriors had no aggro dump and only one talent that reduced threat, so this talent is a very welcome change indeed. Also to be noted is Improved Pummel which will cause successful Pummel's to generate 20 rage, a pretty good incentive for warriors to start paying attention to boss cast timers. Other smaller changes include the removal of any weapon specialization talents and that any talents that deal with rage reduction of abilities will now focus on increasing the damage of those abilities instead.

Mastery Stat Preview

New in Cataclysm is the Mastery stat. This stat will quite simply make you better at your current mastery, basically meaning if you spec with most points in Fury the Mastery stat will make you better at being Fury in a variety of ways. Each spec will provide the areas of improvement that the Mastery stat will govern. For Arms it will be overall melee damage, armor penetration and Bonus Swings (this will work similarly to the Sword Specialization talent of old where your melee swings have a chance to deal a second attack for 50% of weapon damage. Fury warriors will notice increased melee damage, melee haste, and Enraged Intensity which will buff abilities like Death Wish, Enrage, Berserker Rage, Enraged Regeneration and Bloodrage. Protection warriors will notice more damage reduction, Vengeance (this is an interesting ability that increased damage the warrior deals the more he gets beat on by a boss, ensuring that threat will never be a problem even when all your DPS is decked out and dealing ridiculous damage) and Critical Blocking which simply allows your blocks to crit (block for more, not hit back).

This concludes the preview for Warriors, I hope all you warriors out there are as excited as I am and I will see you shortly with the Paladin class preview.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm class previews (part 1)

As the impending doom of the Cataclysm looms ever closer, Blizzard has granted it's heroes a small preview of the changes to come that will prepare them for this great disaster. After being announced officially (although most of us knew it was coming) at last years Blizzcon, Blizzard has kept a fairly tight lid on things that will be happening to the game in Cataclysm. With the Cataclysm website getting only a few scant updates, players were left mainly to their own thoughts and ideas as to how Blizzard will take WoW to the next level. This week however, that all changed as Blizzard has rolled out a small preview for each class (except for pallies, unfortunatly they have to wait until next week :( ) to give a taste of the new abilities, talents and changes that will be happening once Cataclysm drops later this year.

Before I get into the good stuff let's recap the changes that we know are coming.

1. The return of Deathwing:

No we aren't dreaming, possibly the best villain in the entire WarcCraft lore is finally making a comeback. Not having made an appearance at all in WoW, and only being mentioned in passing (in regards to his two offspring Onyxia and Nefarion) most players in WoW probably won't even know who he is. Deathwing (real name: Neltharion) is the leader of the Black Dragonflight, and was at one point the Earth Warden and arguably the most powerful of all the Dragon Aspects (whom are Malygos, Alexstrasza, Yszera and Nozdormu). Driven mad by whispers of an Old God (possibly our good friend Yogg-Saron) Neltharion shed his mantle and took up that of Deathwing the Destroyer much to the dismay of the other Dragonflights. Alas, Deathwing was pushed back by the combined might of the Aspects, however they were unable to destroy him. For countless years he has been waiting, deep under the crust of Azeroth, for his time to strike. That time... is now.

2. The Cataclysm:

After regaining his power inside of his subterranean domain, Deathwing is once again ready to terrorize and destroy the denizens of Azeroth. Erupting from the very crust of Azeroth itself and causing the great Cataclysm, Deathwing has returned. The sheer force and power of Deathwing's entry into the realm of Azeroth has caused shockwaves that will be felt all over the world. The world of Azeroth has been torn asunder, deserts are now lush and full of life whereas the Oasis of old have been smashed into oblivion. The entire landscape of Azeroth has been marred by this great event, and it will allow players to undertake new journeys in Azeroth as they explore this "new" world. All zones have been transformed and as such players will have to find new paths in which to progress through the early levels of the game (1-60) as well as a plethora of new quests to undertake.

3. Increased level cap:

The heroes of Azeroth are currently ill prepared for the return of the Destroyer and will have to season themselves again if they plan to stop the dreaded Deathwing. Although typically Blizzard has granted players the ability to go an additional 10 levels (60-70, 70-80), this time around however you will only be leveling to 85.

4. Flying mounts in Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms:

Players will now be able to use their flying mounts in Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms. However there hasn't been any word on whether it will require new training or if there will be a level requirement to do so (like cold weather flying in Northrend).

5. The Maelstrom:

A constant reminder of the atrocities committed in the past by the Highborne, the Maelstrom churns eternally between the two great continents. Underneath the chaos though, is a beautiful underwater world rich with life that players will have to explore if they want to become powerful enough to face the dreaded Deathwing and emerge victorious.

6. Two new races, Worgen and Goblin:

While the great Cataclysm has wrought much destruction in the world of Azeroth, it is not without gain. The great wall surrounding the kingdom of Gilneas (erected to keep the Scourge at bay) has been shattered. But a great darkness has enveloped the people, causing them to become Worgen. Old alliances have been reforged and the Worgen take their place alongside the heroes of the Alliance.

On the other side of the coin, the Goblins have found themselves without a home, as the great cataclysm has brought nothing but chaos and invaders to their home isles. Both taking pity and seeing an opportunity, the Horde has welcomed the Goblins into their ranks.

7. New class combination's:

If the heroes of Azeroth ever hope to defeat this unrelenting evil, they must open themselves up to new endeavours. Coming with Cataclysm players will enjoy new class combinations such as Tauren Paladins and Priests, Human Hunters, Undead Hunters, Orc Mages, Troll Druids, Blood Elf Warriors, Dwarf Mages and Shamans, Night Elf Mages, and Gnome Priests.

8. Guild leveling system:

Arguably one of the coolest features in Cataclysm, is the ability to gain guild XP through various ways. This can include individual player leveling, killing progression bosses in dungeons and raids, PvP events such as battlegrounds and Arena and various other activities that players will have to discover for themselves. The benefits of leveling your guild are worth the trouble, things like cheaper repair bills and mass resurrections are just some of the talents that will be available in the guild talent tree.

9. New profession and player advancement system:

A new secondary profession, Archaeology, has been introduced into the game that will coincide with the player advancement system known as the Path of the Titans. Path of the Titans is a system that will allow players to further customize and progress their characters after they have reached 85. Players can expect to choose from multiple paths that will lead to unique and interesting bonuses that will help keep players feeling refreshed and eliminate the "cookie cutter" mentality that is currently present in WoW. Archaeology has been implemented to support the Path of the Titans allowing players to discover ancient treasures and artifacts that will help you progress through the Path of the Titans.

10. New (and old) raid content

let's face it, without raid content would anyone still play WoW? With that in mind Blizzard has promised that Cataclysm will feature more raid content than ever before. With multiple raids open to players the minute they ding 85 as well as bringing some old raid bosses back, such as Ragnaros and Nefarion (I admit I squealed with glee when I heard they were making a return). Also coming to the table are heroic versions of classic instances like Shadowfang Keep and Deadmines, so once again Van Cleef can challenge you and your friends.

11. Sweeping changes to the talent and player stat system

Blizzard has not turned a deaf ear to the millions of players out there that have been crying out for a more streamlined and effective stat system. Coming in Cataclysm players will find some stats such as Defense, Attack Power, and Armor Penetration removed from items in the game. Players will still be able to gain said stats however it will be through talents, abilities and accumulation of more traditional stats like Strength, Agility, Intellect, Spirit and Stamina. Also Blizzard has added a new stat called Mastery, which will simply make you better at your chosen spec (for example a Resto Shaman will find their heals heal for more). Accompanying these changes will be an overhaul of the talent system. Blizzard has promised to get rid of passive talents that players feel they have to get or their spec will be broken. Talents like passive 5% crit will become a thing of the past while new talents will take their place. Also, the more points you spend in a talent tree, the more effective you will become in said tree (this applies only to the tree you spend the most points in). I will go into the details of what Mastery will do to individual classes and specs when I preview the coming class changes.

Well that about covers everything that we know is happening in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. Check back everyday over the next week (and beyond) as I will be bringing you detailed analysis and theory crafting all the new class changes that have been preview earlier this week.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Transformers: War For Cybertron multiplayer classes trailer

I think it's safe to say that anyone in my generation (and probably a few others) holds the Transformers franchise very close to their inner child. Well...maybe not the entire franchise as there have been some less than desirable spin-offs over the years. Thankfully though for the next entry into the gaming industry, they seem to have gotten the picture. People want the original transformers, they want Optimus, not some crazy over the top rendition. War For Cybertron is just that while at the same time retaining some artistic freedom.

This game first piqued my interest a little while back when it was just circulating as a rumor. I never thought in a million years that a game developer would ever think of something so genius (hell even I never thought of it). That stroke of genius being to take the Transformers universe, strip it down to it's roots (pre-earth) and make a 3rd person shooter that can be quickly compared to Gears of War (except you can turn into a jet...take that locust). War For Cybertron is without a doubt the game I am most excited for this year, and for good reason.

In the clip below that was just released today, you will see some of their plans for the multiplayer part of the game. An actual war that players will participate in, not just by logging in and fragging their way to a victory but by actually taking a personal approach to the war that cost so many autobots and decepticons their lives. In War For Cybertron players will actually be able to create their own autobot or decepticon and give them a class which will add quite a bit of depth and strategy instead of just mindless shooting. Unfortunatly the process doesn't look very robust at the moment, but the game is still a ways away and for all we know this could just be a teaser.

Stay tuned for more updates as we get closer to the tentative release date in June.

Also, all you WoW fans should check back over the next few days as all the major class changes in Cataclysm are being preview and I'll be bringing all the juicy details right here.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

April Fools Round-up

Well it's time to round up the biggest and best jokes from this April Fools. I do have to apologize for taking so long in writing this post but I wanted to make sure I had scoured the net for only the best in this years jests. This year had quite a few names taking part in the festivities from iconic Google and Blizzard to the smaller Escapist and ThinkGeek. Since there were so many, I'm only going to list the top 3 (in my opinion of course). Well, without further ado, let's get started!

1. Blizzard

The kings of April Fools are back and as usual have spared no expense in trying to fool the masses. While focusing mostly on fooling the denizens of Azeroth, they haven't forgotten about their other IP's. Even digging deep into their archives to bring you Blackthorne 2: Thorne Harder (sorry I can't stop laughing everytime I read that haha) one of the two games that will catapult them into the mobile gaming industry. The other being Queens Quest, a hilarious StarCraft take on the great text adventure Kings Quest. Head on over to Blizzard's announce page for all the details.

Also from Blizzard we have a couple Diablo themed jokes as usual. Firstly is Blizzards take on those ridiculous full body blankets with the Diablo 3 Deckard Cain X-Treme Gamer Blanket. As silly as it might sound, just for pure giggles I probably would actually pick one of these up (I think it's the book that does it for me xD). That's not all from our good friend Deckard Cain though, he's also cooked up a voice pack for your GPS. Now you'll never have to work up the courage to run a red light when you have Deckard Cain telling you that the hordes of hell are driving right up your tailpipe.

World of Warcraft keeps up with tradition by adding the E.P.E.E.N system and the Neural Interface. As if players in WoW didn't have enough to make newbies feel insignificant, Blizzard thought it good to add in the E.P.E.E.N (Equipement Potency EquivalencE Number) system. Basically every time you get a piece of gear it adds to your score, higher scores put you in higher tiers. The higher you go, the more bonuses you get, like a larger ignore list and a higher change to roll high on your need/greed rolls, and also anyone who isn't in your tier can't talk to you, so no more getting whispered for gold in Orgrimmar! As for the Neural Interface...well the photo below speaks for itself...

Also if anyone was checking their Armory over the past few days would have noticed that everyone in Azeroth was a Tuskarr (oh the humanity...)...

2. YouTube

While there are far more April Fools jokes on YouTube than I can probably count, there are 2 highlights. First up we have a trailer for Team Fortresses take on Law Abiding Citizen with Law Abiding Engineer. While the other is something I kind of wish they would add as a permanent feature. If you looked at a couple game trailers on YouTube over the past few days you might have noticed the option to turn the video into ASCII (an image comprised completely of text, see below).

3. Penny Arcade

The great web comics themselves have dived headfirst into the festivities by announcing their second attempt at gaming. The worlds first web comic based fighter. While not exactly something April Foolsish as I'm sure this game would actually probably sell, I know I'd like to pit Gabe against Leo from VGcats (rat morning-star FTW).

There were plenty more where these came from, if you want to see the entire list of gaming related pranks, head on over to Kotaku and enjoy!