Posts Tagged ‘Wizard101’

Playing the Game (Part two)

Monday, June 14th, 2010

hypercube Okay, you have made an avatar in a MMORPG and you are on a team. Now what?

You need to stick to things that (a) you can succeed at, and (b) everyone on the team will enjoy, or at least not be bored at.  If what you are doing does not satisfy these two criteria, you will get your avatars killed and/or lose team members when they quit the team to go do their own thing.

There are basically three kinds of team activities you can pursue.  The first is farming materials. You can move around gathering materials like herbs or ore that your members need for crafting, and protect them from wild animals or enemies who might attack and interrupt them. This is fairly simple and not too risky.

The second type of team activity is farming XP. You can rampage around killing enemies to acquire experience points to level up your character (plus snag whatever drops from the baddies when you scrag them).  The easiest way to do this is to attack loners, like single animals or baddies wandering about by themselves. Having the whole team attack them at once usually brings down a loner quickly and then you move on to the next one.

The third type of team activity is questing or farming bosses. Quests (or missions, in City of Heroes and Champions Online) usually involve fighting bosses also, so I lump these into one category. Bosses are monsters or humanoids with minions or henchmen supporting them. For example, you might be fighting a bunch of thieves who are minions for the head thief, their boss. A boss typically is stronger than his minions, may have extra powers or attacks to hit you with, and has more hit points or health, so it is often hard to take them down by yourself. Exceptionally strong enemies are called elites. Beware the elite bosses! They should be approached with caution.

Let’s say you have a complete team, with a tank, a healer, and one or two people to do DPS.  There is a group of minions around the corner or in the next room or part of the cave, and they have a boss with them. How do you proceed? Some people like to throw caution to the winds and just go for it. Doing this can get your entire team killed. There is an ugly word for gamers who behave that way. They are called noobs.

Okay, it’s a game, a recreational activity, and nobody likes being ordered, “do this, don’t do that” when they are trying to have fun. But try to remember that you are not alone. The team is supposed to work together for the good of all, not for the glory of one. Don’t be a Leroy Jenkins.

The first thing to do when confronting a group of minions and a boss is to note their disposition: are they spread out, or tightly bunched?

If they are spread out, often you can whittle the goup down to a manageable size by pulling. Pulling is basically trying to lure one of the minions away from the group. To do this, you select the one farthest from the others. That way you have the best chance of pulling only one, instead of bringing them all down on you. then you pull them away from the group and gang up on them to kill them quickly. Then if you can you repeat this procedure until the group is small enough to manage in the normal way. Correctly done, pulling takes a little longer but is safer than simply attacking a large group all at once. And safer means you don’t get killed and you can keep on going.

There are three types of pulling. the simplest is the aggro pull. In all online games similar to the ones I am discussing the bad guys and monsters will not notice and attack you until you get within a certain distance of them. This is commonly referred to as their aggro radius. Get inside it, and they go aggressive. The trick is to get inside one guy’s aggro radius but no one else’s, so that only he attacks you. Basically, you move toward the most-isolated enemy , just close enough to make them attack you, then you back off, pulling them after you and away from their fellow enemies. Done correctly, you get one of them — and only one — attacking so you can defeat them without worrying about the rest of the group.

The second kind of pull I called the ranged pull. If your group has people in it with ranged attacks (i.e., mages who can throw fireballs, or hunters that shoot arrows), then you pull the most-isolated enemy away by simply shooting them from a distance. Avoid any kind of attack that has AoE splash. (Area of Effect).  Some attacks will hit every enemy in a certain area. If you hit more than one, then you will pull more than one…or maybe the entire group. So be sure you use a ranged attack that hits only one target.

With both the aggro pull and the ranged pull, there is another consideration: the type of attack the enemy is known to use. If you try to pull an enemy who uses ranged attacks, like a guy with a bow or a sorcerer who throws bolts at you, then the pull might not work. They might see you, get angry, go aggressive….and then just stand there shooting at you. Naturally, this kind of defeats the purpose of the pull, which is to get them away from the group. So with both aggro pulling and ranged pulling, try to anger enemies who have to come after you, not enemies who can just shoot at you.

The third kind of pull I have only experienced in City of Heroes, and it is the most fun: Teleport Foe. In CoH you can learn the power to target an enemy and teleport them closer to you. This can be the best pull of all in that game, because it gives them literally no choice about coming toward you or not. And it works equally well on ranged as well as non-ranged attackers. Of course, it has the drawback that it can miss. And sometimes when it misses they notice you tried and get angry about it. Sometimes, however, even missing with it can have the effect of a successful aggro or ranged pull: they get angry and charge toward you…away from their group. Teleport Foe can also be used to do funny things, like teleporting the bad guy off the edge of a cliff, and watching him fall and get hurt. Always hilarous.

(By the way, these same pulling techniques can be used against your team. If a monster or baddie singles you out while you are teaming and attacks you from the side, do not chase them! They are trying to pull you away. Engage them where you are, or lead them into the team to get help finishing them off.)

Ok, let’s assume that either you have whittled the group down to a manageable size, or they are too tightly bunched to be able to pull some of them. Now what? First, of course, if you have a buffer ( a team member who can temporarily enhance other member abilities like strength, agility, and so on by casting helping spells or buffs ) then the buffer prepares as many of the team as possible by buffing them. Then:

1. The tank goes in and gets them all angry at him. That’s his job, to make them all attack him instead of you. Resist the urge to charge into the fray with the tank. He is doing his job; try to stick with your own if you are not the tank.

2. The healer concentrates on healing the tank, or others who get hurt. This helps the tank keep taking all the aggro without dying.

3. The DPS members (like mages and rogues and ranged attackers like hunters) do as much damage per second as they can to the baddies who are attacking the tank. This can be tricky…because if you hurt them enough you might distract them into forgetting about the tank and going after your DPS people instead.

If all goes well, the tank will hold the aggro, the healer will keep him and anyone else who gets attacked alive, and the DPS folks will help wipe out the group in short order. Some don’ts: (1) If you are the tank, try not to move out of the healing range of your healer, who will then have to follow you, possibly into danger. (2) If you are the healer, resist the urge to attack the baddies; it might pull them into attacking you and not the tank. Try also to resist the urge to chase after team members who retreat when they get hurt. If you follow them off to heal them, you are neglecting the tank, who is getting hit by multiple opponents. (3) If you are the DPS, resist the urge to chase off after baddies who try to run away. Concentrate on the ones hitting the tank.

When everyone does their job well the team is happy. the enemies are dead. People feel safe and powerful. This is a good time to let them know they are all appreciated. Let the healer know you are glad they kept you alive. Let the tank know he is brave and strong. Let the DPS people know they really hurt the bad guys. When a team is doing well, it is a good feeling. People don’t want to leave it. I have been on teams that played together for many long hours and formed lasting bonds. I have also been on teams where someone was selfish, or careless, or acted as if they were all alone and didn’t need to look out for the others. Some of those teams broke up after only one fight or mission.

If you find yourself on a bad team, there are only a couple of things you can do. (1) try to get the jerks to leave and replace them with better members by recruiting in a hurry before everyone gets discouraged, or (2) quit and find a better team. Personally I hate to quit a team, especially in the middle of a mission or quest. But sometimes it is necessary. Not only because you will find yourself suffering on a team where someone is acting like a noob. There is a second reason. If a person acts selfishly, or rashly, or neglects their duties, they are hurting or endagering their fellow team members. If they refuse to change their ways, then sometimes the best you can do is quit and let them go it alone, to send them a message. Everyone needs feedback. — MRK

Next: Part 3 —  hints and tips to make your questing more efficient.

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Playing the Game (Part One)

Friday, June 11th, 2010

The BeamerAt50Okay, some of you have asked for more of my so-called “expertise”, and a couple of you even recommended even longer posts. All right; you asked for it. I’ll share a little of what I have found useful in online gaming. Those of you who are old-timers at online gaming will get bored, I guess. But apparently there are simple things that a lot of people less experienced could profit from hearing explained.

Whether you call them MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) or MOGs (Multiplayer Online Games), the online gaming experience is a whole new genre that has taken the early role-playing “board” games like Dungeons and Dragons, which was played out in people’s imaginations by rolling dice and looking up scores, into virtual reality games like World of Warcraft, in which the computer does all the calculating and you can concentrate on moving around in an apparently “real” invironment and attacking semi-realistic enemies such as humanoids dragons, and so on.

At the moment, I have active accounts in four online games  (World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, Aion, and Champions Online) , so I guess I am sort of qualified to discuss the differences and similarities in these games, and perhaps give you a few tips that might turn out to be useful. And in case you are wondering, no, I don’t work for any of these gaming companies, and I get no money from them for mentioning or recommending any of them.

You will notice, however, that I have not mentioned such games as Far Cry, Call of Duty, and others like them. The reason for this is not because there is anything wrong with such games per se. It’s just that I have my own personal tastes as far as escapism goes, and I tend to prefer escaping either into sword-and-sorcery or superhero venues, rather than play the part of a soldier in a historic or future war, a SWAT teeam member fighting terrorists, and so on. WoW and Aion fall into the first category, and CoH and Champions are in the second.

One thing that should strike you when you look at these games is the degree to which they are becoming semi-standardized. I believe that game developers realize that players do not want to spend a lot of time learning an entirely new interface every time they try a new game. So the games, in some sense, imitate each other, so that if you have played one, it is not all that hard to figure out how to play another one.

Two things you see almost all the time are Health and Mana (prounounced mah nah, by the way, not “manna” as a lot of people do). What are these things? They are quantities that affect your ability to survive and attack or defend. The health indicator, often a red or green line, gets shorter when you are getting hurt or wounded, and is a visual interface object like the gas guage on your car’s dashboard. When the gas needle is pointing to Low, you better refill the gas tank. When your health indicator is low, you better take a healing potion, get healed by a fellow player, heal yourself, or your avatar is going to die.

Health is clear. But what is “mana”? it is actually a Polynesian word that refers to spiritual energy. In his sci-fi fantasy novel The Magic Goes Away, author Larry Niven portrayed a world in which magic is dying out because to do magic you need mana, and the world is running out of mana (which, once used, does not regenerate). Ever since, we have seen fantasy games referring to mana as the power source you need to cast spells. So they include another indicator on the game screen, usually a blue line, called mana, which shows how much you have left. When your mage or warlock or shaman or priest runs out of mana, they cannot throw fireballs, cast healing spells, or whatever. Running out of mana won’t kill you like running out of health does…but it will leave you vulnerable and unable to attack or to defend yourself.

Another indicator common to these games is XP (”experience points”). In WoW this is a segmented line across the bottom of the screen; when you fill it all up from left to right by doing quests and killing monsters and enemies, you level up to the next character level. In CoH the XP indicator is cleverly coiled up into a segmented circle to save space. When you fill up the whole circle by performing missions and defeating enemies, you level up to the next character level.

City of Heroes and World of Warcraft both came out in 2004. The genius of CoH is that it recasts the familiar sword-and-sorcery genre into the world of superheroes and supervillains. They use most of the same concepts as the sword-and-sorcery games, but rewritten as it would be portrayed in a graphic novel or a superhero movie. So while in WoW your avatar might be a Warrior fighting with a sword or axe, or a Mage throwing fireballs or frostbolts, in CoH you might be a Scrapper fighting with a sword or axe, or a Blaster throwing fireballs or ice blasts at your enemies. In WoW you travel around on foot or mounted on a horse or whatever; in CoH you can fly like Superman or Super Jump like the Hulk. In WoW you can craft or otherwise acquire armor (which you can see on your character when you wear it); in CoH you can acquire the right to wear a cape.

Both of these games (and Aion, and Champions also, like many others these days) portray a three-dimensional word rendered with accurate perspective on your screen. By “perspective” I mean that when you turn your character the scene shifts as if you had just turned your head. You can walk around a tree or building and see whatever side of it you are facing. Each has its built-in limitations, of course. In Warcraft you can go underwater to mine some ore that is inconveniently at the bottom of a lake or river. In CoH you can fly up and hover over — or land on — the top of a building. (Avatars in WoW cannot flylike superheroes; they can only travel in the air by riding a flying mount such as a griffin or drake or by turning into a bird; heroes in CoH cannot usually go underwater — if you fall off a bridge you will find yourself treading water with your head sticking out.)

In all these games you control the movement of your avatar with a combination of mouse and keyboard inputs. This is where I think I have an advantage. You see, I am left handed, and I hold the mouse in my left hand. This means I can use keybinds that map my power triggers onto the numeric keypad on the right of my keyboard. So I can target monsters with my left hand using the mouse, and hit, say, the numeric keypad 2 key to fire off a firebolt. This is important, because I never learned to touch-type. If I mapped my inputs so that F was for fireball, I would have to look down at the keyboard and find the F key every time I wanted to throw a fireball.  But instead, I use the numeric keypad, which on standard keyboards conveniently has the “inverted-T” left-right-up-down arrow keys next to it. So my right hand can hit the up-arrow key to move forward and then easily shift over to hit the 2 key to throw a fireball. Bottom line: if you are left-handed, I strongly recommend that you mouse with your left hand (not all lefties do, surprisingly) and key with your right hand. If you are a right-handed mouser, then all I can suggest is that you look for a keyboard that has the numeric keypad on the left, so that you can do a mirror-image of what I do.  Otherwise, unless you are smart enough and lucky enough to be able to use a keyboard without looking down at it, you will end up looking up and down all the time and risking getting whacked while you are hunting for the right key to press. Of course, all of these games also display “power trays”, rows of button icons at the bottom or side of the screen, so you can do it all with just a mouse. But in my opinion, it’s just too much work locating the right icon, rolling uyour mouse over it and clicking, when I can just press a key. The neat thing about using the numeric keypad for your keybinds is that your hand doesn’t have to move very far because the keys are all clustered together like the buttons on a telephone. In no time at all you learn the right motion to stab the 3,5, or 8 keys and so on. Very convenient. You can also buy separate numeric keypads if you want.

Ok, so now you have chosen a game and you are ready to play. Choose wisely, because the part of the game you buy in a store (or online via a paid download) can cost you from $20-$50. And you will usually be paying monthly access fees, too. Most of these games feature free trial periods.  I strongly recommend that you try them first before you set up a paying account. The online access for most games will cost you around $15 per month. Depending on how you look at it, that’s either only 50 cents a day (cheap entertainment!)….or $180 a year (much more than the cost of buying the game client!). So go for the free trial. If you find you love it, you can upgrade to a regular account anytime before the end of the free trial (up to 10 or 14 days in most cases). If you just cannot get happy with the game, you simply stop and have not wasted your money.

Okay, you have decided you like game X. Now it is time to get more serious. You need to create an avatar you will love playing so that you will stick with it. Otherwise, you will play half-heartedly and waste your time, then move on. Lots of people have no idea what they want at first, so they experiment with several different types of avatar until they find a good fit for their own personality. Others know what they want and go for it from the start and save time on leveling by sticking with the one character. Let’s look at the types of gaming avatars. It doesn’t matter matter that much which game you chose — the same types are found in most games, and good teams usually need them all. I will introduce them by the role they play on a team — several players working together.

1. The TANK. (Warrior or Paladin in WoW; Tank or Brute in CoH) The Tank is the hard-to-kill character that tries to get the enemy to attack him instead of more vulnerable players. In WoW this is usually a Warrior or paladin because they wear the strongest armor so it take a lot of whacking to bring them down. In City of Heroes the tank is a melee fighter who often fights with his fists, and he or she has the most “hit points” (health) so that it takes a while to wear him down and defeat him. I know a lady who loved being a tank in CoH because she got off on punching the bad guys out. The tank is the centerpiece of a team’s attack; by drawing all of the “aggro” of the enemies, he keeps them from killing off  the “squishy” avatars like the team’s healer — who is usually pretty easy to kill. You don’t want a dead healer! That’s bad news. So the tank goes in there and gets the enemies to attack him instead. He can take the pounding and hang in there while his other team members do their jobs.

2. The HEALER. Even a tank will not last forever if he has enough bad guys attacking him. The healer’s job is to heal any one who gets hurt, so that no one gets killed. Healers like Priests (WoW) and Defenders (CoH) have low hit points so they are not too hard to kill. So protect your team’s healer — once the healer dies the rest of the team often ends up getting too damaged and they die too, leading to a team wipe — the entire team wiped out. Being a Healer is not an easy job. Sometimes you have to choose who to heal when more than one are hurt and you only have enough time to save one of them. Do you save your girlfriend? or the tank? If you let the tank die, then the rest of you are in a heap of trouble. If you play online with a girlfriend, I hope she understands when you save the tank instead. I have been a healer, and I can tell you from experience that sometimes it was hard to take the guilt when I felt I had let my team down and we all got killed. In Warcraft this is a big inconvenience, because you become a ghost and have to run all the way back to your body. In CoH it is bad too, because you are teleported to a hospital and have to run back to the fight…and you get XP Debt, a nasty surprise.  When you have 1,000 points of XP debt then you level half as fast for a awhile, because half of the XP you get for each enemy killed goes to pay off the debt untill it is gone.  So if you are the healer and your people just had a team whipe, everybody is now levelling half as fast. In Warcraft there is no XP debt…but your armor and weapons get damaged and it can cost you a lot of gold to repair them at high levels.

3. The DPS.   DPS stands for Damage Per Second. The DPS job is to inflict damage on the enemy while they are hitting the tank. In WoW the DPS role is usually filled by a Mage, Warlock, or Rogue. The mage and warlock try to inflict damage from a safe distance by zapping the bad guys with fireballs, shadowbolts, or whatever. Mages and warlocks, like Priests, wear only cloth armor, the weakest, so they have to try to avoid getting into the actual close-up combat. Rogues are vicious melee fighters who often use a sword or dagger in each hand. Rogues do a lot of damage in a short amount of time. But they wear leather armor, which is nowhere near as good as the mail or plate armor a Warrior wears…so rogues are usually working the DPS role instead of trying to be a tank. In City of Heroes the DPS is usually a Blaster or Scrapper. There is a CoH avatar type called the Dual Swords scrapper which is a lot like a WoW Rogue. The CoH Blaster is like the WoW Mage or Warlock. Blasters do what their name implies….they stand back out of the fighting and bring the pain by blasting the enemies from a distance.

4. Crowd Control. This is not always a separate job; often casters like Priests and Mages can help to manage large groups of enemies by turning some of them into sheep for a few seconds, or by hitting them with a spell that scares them away for awhile. This reduces the number of targets hitting the tank, and gives the DPS fewer targets so they can concentrate their damage. In City of Heroes there is a special avatar type called, logically enough, the Controller. Controllers can hold enemies by freezing them in ice, encircling them with fire, or putting them to sleep. It’s all good. Anything that disables some of the enemies you are battling makes the jobs of the tank and dps easier.

Okay, you have decided what role you’d like to play on a team. This pretty much determines what type of avatar you are going to build. No what? How do you get on, or form a team? When I started playing City of Heroes I really had no clue at all. I ran around in my Blaster soloing, not having read the game manual, and only later did I discover what I had been missing.

Teaming is THE WAY to level faster in City of Heroes, because of a not-always-understood difference between CoH and WoW. In World of Warcraft, when your team kills a monster, you divide the XP among the members of the team (actually, the game does this automatically). So if you kill a dragon that gives 1000 XP points, you only get some of them – your share — unless you are not on a team and did it all by yourself. City of Heroes is completely different. If eight people (the max) are on a CoH team and they kill a monster that gives 1000 XP, everyone on the team gets 1000 XP points. Instead of dividing the XP among the team, CoH gives everyone a copy of it. So if you are on a team of eight players and everyone kills a different guy and each guy is worth 100 hit points, guess what? Everyone gets not 100, but 800 XP. Teams can make for very fast levelling in CoH. In Warcraft, if you are on a team it is because you need their help to survive and complete a quest or go into a dungeon for greater rewards. Otherwise you would probably be soloing, since soloing in WoW means not having to divvy up the XP with other people.

So how do you form a team (or group, in WoW). there are several ways.

1. Invite someone to join you, or accept an invitation from someone. Sometimes you get lucky and see someone soloing who is willing to team with you. In most games you can right-click on their avatar and press a button to send them an invite. or they can invite you. Whoever does the inviting is the team leader, although you can decide to let someone else lead and promote them to leader.

2. Advertise on Chat.  All games have a text chat interface so that you can type messages to other players for verious reasons. You could type someting like “level 13 blaster LFT” or “frost mage 15 lfg”. LFT = looking for team. LFG = looking for group. These are informal abbreviations. The important thing is to type them in “open chat” i.e., on a channel everyone will see so that hopefully someone will invite you to join their team.

3. Use a Search Interface. Most games now have a built-in way to search for particular types or levels of avatar to fill in the empty slots in your team. Warcraft even has a new feature called the “Dungeon Finder” which will put you into a team and send you straight into an “instance” of a random dungeon. Warning, though! This is a semi-random process. You are not guaranteed a good team. All this insures is that someone has agreed to serve in each team role. So you do not go into the dungeon until you have a tank, a dps, and a healer. But remember these are strangers so you have no idea if they are good players, or just someone’s kid playing her dad’s avatar.

Ok, I think that’s enough for newcomers to digest at one sitting. Tomorrow I’ll discuss some strategy, and some neat tricks that can save you time so you can spend more time on playing. And speaking of playing, I’ve just spent a couple of hours typiing all this (I told you, I never learned to touch type; sad but true for a career programmer). I need to get back to my gaming see you online! –MRK

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