Overwatch Beta: First Impressions

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

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WTF.

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AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA.

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Ok, I know this is obviously a bot game vs AI, but….

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WTF.

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I have shit accuracy. I am a total noob. I’m not familiar with the map at all.

How the hell does this happen?

Then I went to play an actual game with players.

First round: Went via some side route or other (as inferred from seeing other players charge up a central path toward the objective.)

Managed to be fast enough to overtake the objective by a half metre, set up in an unobtrusive corner slightly behind the presumable viewpoint of the opposing team staring straight ahead at the spawn objective.

They had no chance at all.

First round won.

Second round: One or two opposing team players switched to Reinhardt. The frontal barrier shield puzzled me a bit and I spent a little way too long a time dicking around out of turret form trying to reposition and figure out how to get around behind them and failing and totally ignoring the team fight and objective, while the opposing team sat on it.

Second round lost.

Final round: Decided not to play Reinhardt’s game any longer. Remembered during trying out all the heroes’ skills on the practice map that the frontal shield only has 2000 health. Turreted up a nice long distance away, held down the left mouse button while aiming in the general vicinity of the big blue glowing rectangle thing sitting on the spawn.

Another Bastion on my team did the same thing. Two Reinhardts on the opposing team = no more shield, then dead.

Our team moved in onto the capture point. I de-turreted and went around the sides again, looking for a nice angle on a completely unfamiliar map. Found a cute side room whose only entry seemed to be nearer our team than theirs. Had a decent enough side view of the capture point. Finished off about 3-4 people that were dumb enough to move into my sight line aka on the capture point, while the other five members of my team destroyed those that didn’t dare get on said capture point for obvious reasons.

After that game, I uninstalled Overwatch.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. It’s got that super well-polished Blizzard look all over it.

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I was deeply impressed by the very guided tutorial, which really assumes the person playing it is completely new to FPSes and may need some adjustment time with getting familiar with the controls and so on.

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After that, you get to play around in a little private Practice Range map to shoot bots (literally robots) and have friendly bots to test out all your skills on. You learn about Hero Swapping and have all the time in the world to try out every Hero’s skill in blissful peace and quiet.

(Albeit, the map closed on me once because I stayed too long, and I had to start it again.)

This is worlds apart from trying to learn MOBA hero skills from either watching a video or having to be in a serious business game lasting 45 minutes where your teammates will rip you apart for being noobtastic.

Then you can ramp up to something less potentially hostile and 100% cooperative by going up as a player team against a set of bots, or Practice vs AI.

Which I think it is a GREAT idea… except a little HAHAHAHAHAHAHA WTF HAHAHAHA in practice. See above.

I suppose they were easy bots or something. Who knows. I was yolo solo-queuing by just hitting the Practice vs AI button.

After which, I presume it’s vs other players time, and/or ramping up AI difficulty in some way that wasn’t obvious on first glance.

Given how lethal every hero appears to be capable of being, I suppose Blizzard decided to err on the side of generosity by ramping up the chance that everyone will get at least partial “wins” by scoring some kills here and there, even if their team loses.

However, this may be at odds with the snowball mechanic of MOBAs or some such. Apparently, it’s less fun to be on the losing team’s side because you end up with one or two men down, and promptly keep losing from being outgunned and outflanked or whatever.

I dunno. I was busy playing Bastion.

Now, I’m -sure- Bastion has counters, as more skilled players would tell you. I’ve been a TF engineer, my turret and I have been outplayed countless times by skillful medics.

Apparently the Widowmaker can snipe Bastion to death from really far away (presuming not noob player with good aim), Genji can reflect a Bastion to autokill themselves (counter = recognize a Genji and don’t freaking shoot until the skill is over), etc.

I’ve been on the receiving end of a Reinhardt charge and pinned against the wall and shotgunned to death (during the lost round in which my positioning was very very bad.) Not fun.

I hear Roadhog can do a Pudge and meathook a turreted Bastion into his waiting arms of insta-death.

Is it going to take a little while for newbie players to realize this? Yep.

Is it still going to be possible for a thinking Bastion or Torbjorn to outwit many of the casual players out there? I’m guessing, YEP.

Is Blizzard going to nerf Bastion a teeny bit more because it seems quite ludicrously OP compared to other heroes? A qualified maybe-yep.

(I heard some guy on Reddit went up against a pre-made team of 4 Bastions and 2 Reinhardts. I laughed my ass off on reading that team composition.)

Is Bastion still going to be playable and enjoyable post-nerf? Is it possible to learn a bunch of other heroes to counter Bastion? Is it still going to be possible to play and position Bastion skillfully to out-counter the counterers? Probably all of the above, yep.

But you know, I realize that I don’t have the patience nor the time for it, personally.

It feels a little like I’ve done this before, with Team Fortress, and TF has a bit more of that jump-in, jump-out, soloqueue, play your own minigame fun, as opposed to the small team, very objective-focused, MOBA-like teamfight style of Overwatch, where team synergies are likely what you’d want to focus on at higher levels of play.

If you had a team of friends to get together and knock out a few rounds while voice coordinated, sure, yeah, it’s probably a little more fun like that. (Then again, MANY other games would be a little more fun like that.)

I’m especially NOT paying $40 USD or more for the privilege of jumping in to casual play a few rounds here and there for kicks.

$20 USD, maybe. I’d buy it if/when it ever goes on half-price or free to play.

I mean, TF2 is free to play. Dota 2 is free to play. League of Legends is free to play. That’s their competition right there.

It’s a little bit of a shame because the polish could knock your socks off, the heroes all feel pretty unique and cute; if you were a play-all-the-things player, you’d have a really fun learning curve mastering each hero; many of the heroes all feel like they’ve stolen a little bit from MOBAs or other FPSes here and there (a pudge meathook, an enigma black hole pull, dwarf turret playbook is nearly a dead ringer for the TF engineer, etc.) and it’ll be interesting to see how players put them together in new and surprising ways…

… but um… there’s probably still a few more balancing passes and iterations to go in order to make sure that a few heroes aren’t overwhelmingly favored over everything else…

…and ultimately, it’s me. I’m playing too many other games, most of them free or already with initial outlays paid for, to have 1-3 hours a night to commit to Overwatch. So… why should I pay $40 USD for a game I have no time to play just yet?

Does not compute.

I’d give one thing to Blizzard though. They got me to download the Battle.net Launcher. It is a super-slick well-polished affair like pretty much all their other games. Which are conveniently displayed in super-slick fashion in a vertical row screaming “Play Me For Free” or “Try It For Free.”

I already downloaded Diablo 3 to give it a spin. Cute. Also another thing I actually have no time to sit through a long story for, but maaaybe, if it ever goes on 50% sale ever ever again.

I have been waiting for a cheaper Starcraft 2 for eons. All three of the chapters are finally out now. Some kind of battlechest bundle can’t be much farther away. Maybe 2017 or 2018… In the meantime, I could actually ‘try it for free.’

No doubt, I will take Heroes of the Storm out for a free spin too at some point.

(Already messed around with Hearthstone on the Android phone. Meh. It’s a card game. It makes money off selling the promise of power/options in card packs. Standard schtick.)

So the only thing I probably WILL be keeping for now is the launcher and the Battle.net account. The rest can wait for another day, far far ahead in the future. That’s probably already a win in Blizzard’s book.

GW2: Heart of Thorns Day 1 Impressions

Like Abott and Costello...

If we measure success by the sheer number of things that one could do, without doubt, GW2’s Heart of Thorns expansion is an unmitigated success.

One look down the achievements list (sorry Bhagpuss, it’s still here), the collections tab, the new masteries, the legendary precursor sections, the Heart of Thorns zones, the Heart of Thorns story chapters, the new guild initiatives, and oh, there were elite specializations and a new revenant profession, wasn’t there? (haven’t had time to even progress on any of those.)

Not to mention, all things WvW and PvP related that I haven’t even glanced at.

Oh, did we mention Halloween is in full swing in Lion’s Arch, so you -could- also be grinding out limited time festival goodies for shiny skins if so prioritized?

Drooburt up to his old ways in the afterlife.

Drooburt is still up to his old ways in the afterlife.

If we measure success by server stability and lack of game breaking bugs or everybody-can’t-login-or-play crashes, ArenaNet completely blows the competition out of the water on this one.

So far, most of the problems I’ve been hearing about are related to people being impatient and jumping straight into the game once it’s downloaded past the “playable” mark, and then charging headlong into a new zone or a story chapter where the content hasn’t fully downloaded yet – whereupon it either pauses/hangs or unceremoniously crashes the player out.

Duh.

I was patient (albeit in a knuckle gnawing, restlessly listening to others on Teamspeak, “I think I shall go and have some lunch while I wait for the full download” manner) and downloaded to 100% before logging in, and the whole experience for me has been silky smooth and perfect.

The servers are holding up in a remarkably rock solid manner, considering that my online friends list that usually is about half a page of people online stretched out to about 2.5-3 pages of people all online and checking out the shiny.

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Impressions?

The jungle feels a lot better than I thought it would be.

One thing that’s definitely helping is the music. I turned it back up from silent to appreciate the new scores and wow, the one on the character loading screen has to be heard to be believed.

Everything has a new coat of HoT shiny. The launcher now features a green tinted charr (Rytlock?); the character selection screen looks super-dramatic and shows off more helpful information, including which crafting professions are on which character.

The new HoT zones feel better when they’re all interconnected in one giant three-tiered map that goes from treetop canopy to roots, as opposed to one tiny section on reveal during beta. The former feels expansive and freeing, the latter felt small and cramped.

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The fun of a launch zerg – an event turns into an impromptu sniper rifle shooting gallery.

Add on some good accompanying background music, a little mob clutter, some NPCs (though some of them are chattering away at a slightly abnormal cranked up pace) and they become zones that seem worth exploring.

It also seems to me that they may have populated the floor with more jungle plant entities, which helps the atmosphere greatly (though I have no idea if this is an issue for older, slightly less updated computers now. The ‘perils’ of enjoying a new-ish rig.)

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I need to find the time to figure out what this says… It appears to be some wreckage from the Pact fleet.

The story feels promising.

I just passed chapter 7 – Personal Possessions (which made me rage quite a bit, I’ll tell you, frickin’ latency and zephyrite-ish jumping puzzles = most of the drama and pacing taken out by multiple fall/deaths to the point where one was running as essentially naked charr), which properly segues us into the next zone past Verdant Brink, Auric Basin.

Given that there are two more zones past Auric Basin, and that I’ve only uncovered about three-quarters of the Verdant Brink map and definitely not touched a great many events and mastery points and adventures in VB itself, there appears to be a sizeable chunk of content on offer.

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I’m trying to avoid major spoilers, but I suppose by now, most people do know there’s a city of gold somewhere in the jungle with some strange things called the Exalted. (End of minor spoiler.)

It’s the chapter before that lets us meet some old friends and has significant plot movement.

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It’s amazing how many people have rushed past the story and into just wandering about the new zones though.

I would have really appreciated some alone time playing through all the story chapters, but I knew one of my guilds was looking to claim a guild hall ASAP, so most of yesterday was spent with Teamspeak voices in the background, doing my best to power through some masteries while waiting for the expedition so that I wouldn’t miss the essentially one-off event.

Turns out that one was still lacking an Exalted mastery to get past a gate, but fortunately, there are mesmers to help guildies skip through that part, and I managed to zone into the instance.

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Wasn’t too bad. It definitely needed some communication and cooperation, along the lines of “split up your zerg, you morons.”

Whatever messaging system the devs were using for cues and instructions -needs- to be used and repeated in future zone events and even raids, imo. The pop up message was concise and offered feedback of the direct “shove it down your throat” kind – you failed this, this consequence now happens. Try doing X instead.

Given the mess of 40+ players running around, whose first impulse tends to be “follow the other yellow dots and commander tag,” the direct messaging was very helpful.

It took a bit of turning like an oil tanker (and one failure phase, but not failed in its entirety) for the group to learn and figure out what it had to do, but it was done in the end.

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Oh, speaking of other guild changes, the yellow dots are an interesting touch.

Some people don’t like it, but I’m fairly neutral about it. I kind of like that it makes me feel a bit more interconnected with the other people in the guild, in that I can see their names repeated in my daily game encounters (leading to a sense of familiarity) and at a glance, you can also see if there are any fun congregations of group activity going on in certain zones.

The multiple guild chat channels, though. FREAKING GODSEND. ABOUT TIME. HOW DID WE PLAY THREE YEARS WITHOUT THIS.

That one change makes my chat window suddenly worth looking at and reading, rather than mostly ignoring.

Makes the whole place feel a lot more lively and social now.

(And I don’t even talk much. Just listen to the chatty ones mostly.)

My one criticism of the Heart of Thorns expansion?

The 6 new stats sets being introduced.

Apparently, even though we are not having any increase in item gear rarity ever (so sayeth Colin), someone has figured out a clever little workaround and decided that they can get away with putting two primary stats and two secondary stats on new gear, as opposed to the one primary and two secondaries of old.

Um, are we power-creeping a little here? Did we just obsolete the desirability of things like Berserker or Sinister because now everyone should want one of the newer stat combinations for that secondary stat bonus now?

Not sure. I haven’t looked at the actual numbers to compare yet, but I’m sure someone will be doing those calculations sooner rather than later.

And then we shall see if there was any attempt at equivalency or just an outright “this gear is better, by X%”.

In the meantime, there are masteries and lots of candy corn to chase.

And I suppose I should make that revenant some day. (I’m in not that much hurry, I don’t think the asura name I have in mind will be grabbed any time soon.)

Minecraft: Regrowth – First Thoughts

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Minecraft: Regrowth is a modpack with an interesting premise. You awaken in a wasteland of nothing, dead trees, dead rock, dead everything.

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If you’re lucky, you find a pool of oil near your front doorstep / spawn point.

From this auspicious beginning, your task (if you choose to accept it) is to bring life back into the world.

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That mini-forest and grass patch is entirely man-made.

It’s a modpack that doesn’t believe in hardcore pwning you the minute you walk out your front door (which is a very strong point in its favor after trying out mods like Crash Landing or Void World, where I tend to lose patience with urban city fighting fending off an army of crazily modded zombies and skeletons, never-ending thanks to strategically placed and nearly impossible to find spawners)…

…but cleaves to a philosophy of removing the (often easier) standard “go-to” tech mods like Minefactory Reloaded, Thermal Expansion, Extra Utilities etc. in favor of walking you through less explored mods of a nature and magic flavor, such as Botania, Agricraft, Magic Crops and Witchery.

A few tech mods are still present, but mostly of the less explored, slightly more tedious/grindy variety, Buildcraft, Railcraft, and Mariculture being some of those you’ll be asked to learn and progress through before reaching the ability to comfortably make a Tinker’s Smeltery.

It’s quite a well done progression, helped along by a very comprehensive HQM quest book that walks you step-wise through unfamliar mods and always provides multiple goals to be working toward at any one point.

The overall feeling is that of a relaxing, growing/farming progression, that gives you sufficient time and space to build however you wish.

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In my case, that’s still pretty much a functional home of the ‘hole in the ground’ variety.

I find it quite impossible to break the habit somehow. I vaguely considered flattening out a huge open space on which to grow squares and lines of crops out in the world, but my spawn point happened to be in the Arid Mountains biome and the landscape was just too daunting to consider massive terraforming.

Besides, a gigantic walled compound was so… ugly.

(I ended up digging a 3 deep moat around the outside of my base to demarcate a relative safe area with torches to prevent monster spawns. This has the advantage of being almost invisible to the eye, if you’re not looking directly at it.)

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While the experimental industry is left outside, most of the really valuable stuff happens inside:

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My initial hobbit hole with resource storage / crafting chamber and a lower room for initial experimental Botania flowers and crop growing.

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A week later, it’s significantly more upgraded, and starting to reach the limits of its confines.

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I was perhaps a little foolishly optimistic in thinking this tiny chamber would be sufficient. It’s now been more or less converted into the initial crossbreeding zone – one produces new crops/seeds by crossing two existing crops such as those dandelions produced by crossing sugarcane and melons (don’t ask.)

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It turns out that seeds can increase in strength and growing speed and yield, and the easiest fire and forget method of propagation (since weeds are disabled in Regrowth and you don’t have to hover anxiously over the crops ready to smite them) is to stretch them out in a long line.

By the time the seeds propagate themselves to the end of the line, that last seed is often at the ideal 10/10/10 stats, or close to it (whereupon you start the line again.)

My second growth room was stymied by my poor architectural planning. I couldn’t widen it any further because there are mushroom corridors along the right wall that don’t appreciate any light being let in, and on the left, those windows pretty much overlook the sea.

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Third time lucky. (We hope.) Left and right views of the slightly more industrial sized underground farm.

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The sprinkler system is newly installed. One is still working out the kinks. Several water tanks are connected to it outside but it’s been proving really hard to create an infinite water supply in Regrowth without my standard easy way out of an aqueous accumulator.

I think my only hope at this point is to use a Buildcraft pump (which requires me growing redstone) and a 3×3 infinite water source.

It will also involve some wrangling with Buildcraft pipes, which I honestly quite loathe after getting used to the more flexible and intuitive Itemducts and Fluiducts from Thermal Expansion via Agrarian Skies or the conduits of Ender IO via Wanderlust Reloaded.

Buildcraft pipes feel like a massive programming throwback to something decades earlier where you have to specify -everything-, starting from the extraction wooden pipe (that apparently has to be powered by a separate engine, which in turn has to be powered by a redstone lever – unless I’m misunderstanding something) and then the actual transport itself requires differently colored pipes made out of different materials specifying the speed at which it travels and then god forbid you want to do something complicated while stuff is in the pipes because that requires more pipe colors to sort/divide/filter and so on.

Well, we’ll see. Regrowth leaves me with no choice but to learn how to manage it (or forcibly custom install another mod, but that feels like cheating) so manage it we shall, for the time being.

It’s like how I’ve started wrangling with Railcraft’s Steam Boilers and really primitive-feeling steam engines (which I hear can explode if you treat them badly, like pour water into an empty overheated steam boiler) because I don’t have anything more modern on hand and I need -some- amount of RF power.

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The beginning of the experimental ‘machines’ phase. I decided to do a more Agrarian Skies-like floating cobblestone platform to house the machine experiments.

I figure if things really go badly and explode, everything will just fall into the ocean and I can do recovery from there.

No doubt I will have to widen it further as time goes by, but at least there’s potential for a nearly infinite flat space in this direction.

Definitely a modpack worth trying.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you if you go silent for several weeks and no one hears from you in a while. *coughs*