Spennatrix is OP

I have been in Second Life a bit more in the last few months doing random things, as well as being in Kitely contributing to Karima Hoisan’s amazing builds (“worlds”, they call them in Kitely). But I’ve also been in World of Warcraft even more (hey, there’s a new expansion out!) so I’m going to talk about that here instead. Who knows, if I get used to writing in weblogs again, maybe it’ll occur to me to write some original words about SL again eventually!

(For instance maybe about how it was kind of fun figuring out Bakes on Mesh and having a full mesh head and body for Girl Dale, but that having done it all there doesn’t really seem to be any point outside of like better-looking joints in swimsuit photos.)

Spennix the Rogue has been max-level (which is 60 again now; shades of Classic!) for a little while now, and it’s been pretty fun. She’s rather squishy, as I’ve resigned myself to rogues being, with of course the somewhat compensating advantage of being very good at sneaking and vanishing and running away and stuff. So, good for exploration. She is in the Night Fae Covenant, mostly because I thought the “running around fast as a glowy animal” thing sounded like fun and more in-character than the other covenants. The damage ability seems to do a little extra damage, but nothing amazing.

For variety, I also leveled Spenax the Affliction Warlock a bit, up to 57 as of this writing. They have this nice mechanic where when your second and subsequent characters arrive at the main part of the expansion, you have a choice between going through all the introductory storylines introducing the covenants one at a time and all, or you can go straight to choosing one and then flitting around all the various areas levelling. I chose the latter for Spenax, and the Venthyr seemed aesthetically appropriate for a Warlock. The Door of Shadows ability is fun, and the damage ability, again, seems to do maybe a little extra damage.

A snappily-dressed female Night Elf Holy PriestThen I decided to focus and to some higher-stress stuff, so I’ve been leveling Spennatrix the Holy Priest, including actually healing instances, which is stressful because if you mess up the party dies, and if the tank messes up the party dies and blames you. (I’m sure tanks say the same thing about healers.) But it sure is quicker than just questing around, and the dungeon-queue wait times are like two minutes tops for a healer. So Spennatrix is 59 going on 60 as of this writing. She joined the Kryian Covenant because of course she did (they’re so pure and earnest that they are going to turn out to be bad guys, right?), and the non-combat “weird little owl guy with a baby voice brings you a potion” ability is amusing. But the combat ability? Well, holy shirtballs!

I mean, I may be pretty bad at party healing (or maybe I’m pretty good, I’m not sure; so much depends on the tank and how bad the DPS are about standing in pools of stuff), but for solo’ing around, a Kyrian Holy Priest is totally OP. (OverPowered, that is, not Original Post{er}.)

Long, long ago, in say Ashenvale, poor Spennatrix would wince at the site of, say, a bear, because they tended to do damage faster than she could heal, if she was going to get in any damage herself and therefore kill the bear before running out of mana.

But now! Need to do damage? We have Smite and Holy Fire. We also have Holy Word; Chastise, which is not only a nice chunk of damage but also a good interrupt and a decent stun, and it comes around so often on the guitar that we can just use it for a little extra damage without worrying about wasting the interrupt part, because it’ll be back soon. We also have miscellany like Holy Nova for an area effect, and that star thingie which does both damage and healing in a line out of front of one, and then again on the way back.

(All priests apparently also have Shadow Word: Pain and Shadow Word: Death. Spennatrix does not use these. Ever.)

Worried about taking damage? We have Power Word: Shield (which we didn’t for awhile, but now we do again) which makes the first N owches of damage just not count, and we can self-cast it every like 15 seconds. And if we do take damage, we have small fast heal, and big slow heal, and “heal that person and then jump to whoever else needs it the most”, and a Heal Over Time, and a “heal the whole party with pretty graphical effects”, and “heal this person and everyone near them”, and “heal this person an enormous amount if it’s available, and since its cooldown reduces with every small fast heal you cast, it probably is”, and… and… and…

And then there’s the Kyrian thing, Boon of the Ascended, which can be used every three minutes, and basically turns you into this unstoppable damage and healing vortex for ten seconds, with both direct and area damage, all kinds of healing as a side effect, and a big boom at the end that takes care of most of whatever difficulties survived until then.

Spennatrix is no longer worried about bears. Especially the first bear that’s tried to mess with her in the last three minutes.

(And then there are little perks like Levitate, which is an any-time “no worries about falling” thing, as long as you don’t need to steer, and Fade and/or Shadowmeld, which are not as good for sneaking as a rogue’s Stealth, but still very handy.)

None of this helps (enough) in a dungeon with a squishy headlong tank and DPSes that stand in boiling blood, but it’s definitely easier to solo around than I remember!

Update: Ding 60! :)

Diablo III: that was fun! Kind of!

So I got a free copy of Diablo III for promising not to quit WoW for a year or something (I don’t know, it was complicated, but it didn’t cost anything, and there were some vaguely non-trivial-looking benefits, so I clicked the buttons).

RL has been even more complex than usual and I haven’t been able to get into SL much, but I’ve had enough stolen moments in D3 that I’ve now beaten the game (the first time through, see below), and I can sincerely say that it was worth every penny. Haha, see what I did there? :)

Not that it was worthless, but on the other hand I can’t really see why it was such a big deal, or why it seems to actually have fans and forums and stuff. Unless there’s lots of new stuff in the harder modes that I haven’t tried yet, it seems about as worthy of having devoted fans or forums as, I don’t know, some minor Edward Bulwer-Lytton short story or something.

But anyway! Here is my first character, Cathcart the Monk, the one that I beat the game with on normal mode:


That’s a screenshot, shown actual pixels, of him at like level 34, from the “Select a Hero” screen. It’s also apparently the closest that it’s possible to ever see any character in the game (not counting the pre-rendered cutscenes, which of course don’t show your character).

Here is a shot from within the actual game, after pressing Z I think it is to zoom in to the tiny extent that one can zoom in:

Little D3 People

Kind of small and far away, I thought. Want to see the actual expression on someone’s face? Well, too bad!

Crowded little D3 people

And, especially irritatingly, what minor zooming-in there is doesn’t understand about having to derender stuff that is in the way, so if you try to zoom in to take a screenshot of some noteworthy scene, your camera is likely to end up obstructed by a wall:

D3 zoom fail

or buried in opaque tree leaves:

D3 zoom fail 2

My first instinct in cases like that would be to spin the camera-view around, which leads to the next amusing feature of Diablo III: you can’t do that. There is exactly one possible viewpoint, looking down at your character from something like three meters in the air and five meters to the South.

I went to the D3 forums to see if this was really a limitation or if I’d just neglected to find the camera-movement keys, and was amused to see the True Blue D3 Fans forming roving gangs there and fending off anyone asking that question, saying things like:

I dont know man, that type of camera angle is one of the trademarks of the diablo series. Personally i like it as it is, it would not feel the same for me with a different one…

[T]he isometric camera is a staple of the true soul of the Diablo series.

The stationary camera is one of the pieces of nostalgia kept in place from Diablo 1 and 2 are very positive.


this isn’t wow

I knew the WoW kids would all flock to d3 with their complaints

and perhaps my favorite:

What legitimate gameplay reason is there to rotate the camera?

which invites two kinds of amusing questions in response: “Yeah, why would you ever want to look in anything but one fixed direction during a battle?”, and on the other hand “What legitimate gameplay reason is there for the characters to have noses?”.

Of course it’s only the WoW players who miss being able to look more freely around the world. Well, and the people from Second Life. And Skyrim. And Call of Duty. And pretty much any game made since 2005. And, well, DOOM. From 1993…

But anyway! :) The inability to see the character close up, or to have a first-person mouselook sort of view, or to look freely around the world, tended to keep me from feeling really immersed. Also the movement system is entirely click-to-move, which I find also detracts from immersion. Feels more like The Sims With Monsters in a way; more like playing with action figures, maybe, than like really being in an interesting world myself.

And it’s really short! As well as extremely linear. There are four “Acts”, each with various quests in them, and you’re taken from one quest to the next and one Act to the next with very little choice in the matter. There are a few side-quests, but rather than being things that you can run around doing at will, they are things that may or may not become available in any particular play through the game, more or less at random; that is, they are largely under control of the game rather than the player.

Once you finish the game once in normal mode (and it’s quite easy, all of the bosses are essentially “hit them until they die, being sure to walk into the health-globes that they spawn so you don’t die yourself”), you get to see the nice victory cut-scene, and then next time you enter the game you are without explanation back at the start, with all of your items and skill and level intact, but this time in Nightmare Mode. Which, as far as I can tell so far, means that the game is exactly the same, except that the monsters are all upgraded to about the same level that you are, so they are roughly just as hard to kill as they were the first time through.

So you get to play the same game over and over if you want (the modes are something like normal, Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno), with the same character at successively higher levels, against successively tougher monsters (or they would be tougher except that you are higher level now too), with maybe a different random side-quest or two thrown in. Thrills?

(There is also an orthogonal Hardcore Mode, which you can choose when you create a character. Hardcore characters are different in that once one dies it stays dead, and you can’t play it anymore. I’d be curious to see a good Hardcore player deal with some of the encounters that seem specifically designed to require two or three deaths to get through, where more and more monsters just pile in. Maybe there’s an Aggro model that I just haven’t figured out, or something, but I’m not that interested.)

There’s a Stash that lets you store items that you find and share them among all of your (non-Hardcore) characters, and there’s an Auction House (not inside the world but just dialogs in the main game menu; another blow to immersion) where you can buy and sell things, and apparently there is or will be some way to buy gold and/or items with actual real-world money (which I have to admit baffles me somewhat; why would anyone care enough about this tiny game to want to spend real money to buy fancy equipment in it?).

I’m still paying Act I in Nightmare Mode with my Monk a bit, although it’s sort of dull. I’ve also created a second character, Eolfrida the Barbarian woman:


You will note I have to take a taller picture there, ’cause of she is Big. :)

Here she is running toward battle at like level 2:

Eolfrida running toward battle

and standing around looking blurry and undefined a few levels later:

Eolfrida again

Playing a Barbarian is slightly different from playing a Monk, more emphasis on smashing things, more use of healing potions and glomming onto healing drops ’cause of not having any healing magic (so far?), but basically still “click until you have enough magic whatsit saved up to right-click, and throw in a spell from the 1, 2, 3, or 4 buttons once you are high-enough level”.

The story is okay, sort of what you might find in a decent Conan-style pulp novella, with one loudly-foreshadowed plot twist just where you’d expect. There’s some amusing repartee with and between the NPCs, and there’s a little variety and thought involved in equipping the three follower NPCs and deciding which one to take along at any given time, although in fact they seem mostly interchangeable.

Probably worth more than the nothing that I paid for it. But if I’d paid the, what, sixty US$ that it costs retail? I do not think I would consider it a good investment…