Sunday, January 31, 2010

Game Health Models

There are several different ways that health is managed in video games.  The basic premise is always the same: enough damage can kill you.  However, they differ in how much damage can kill you and whether that health can regenerate.  So here is my description/analysis of the different models that I have observed.  I'm mostly going to be talking about health models in shooters/action games, since RPGs tend to mostly use the first model that I will discuss.

The most classic model of health in video games is the finite, non-regenerative health model.  Basically, the hero/heroine has a fixed, initial amount of health (typically 100) and it decreases as s/he takes damage.  When health reaches 0, the character dies.  Healing is possible through health packs or healing spells if it's an RPG.

This model has been with us since the beginning of video games and is the most familiar.  Your health is usually denoted by a number in part of the screen.  A shield which can extend your health past 100 is not unfamiliar.  One thing about designing around this type of health is that your game becomes boiled down to trying to make it from health pack to health pack, since each health pack resets you back to full health.

One of the downsides of this model is that it can promote Rambo-ing every thing, because taking your time can cause you to take more damage overall.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Future of Bears

Bears saw little new in Wrath of Lich King as far as active abilities are concerned, retaining the Burning Crusade approach to single and multi-mob tanking strategy.  Here are some changes that I would like to see made to bears for Cataclysm.  This isn't supposed to be a call for buffs (although they are welcome), I just want Druid tanking to be more interesting.

AOE Tanking Fixes
I have a couple ideas for making Bear AOE tanking more effecting and more interesting.

Mangle Procs
A proc could be added to Mangle to encourage its use in AOE tanking situations.  Naturally, this proc would need to more than make up for the missed Swipe opportunity.  I have two ideas for this:
  1. The proc makes your next Maul a 360 degree AOE,
  2. or the proc buffs your next Swipe in some way.  It could just do a straight buff to damage or add a bleed component.  A bleed effect would also interact with Mangle's buff to bleed damage.  This would make bleeds be the Bear Druid's 'thing.'.
More after the cut.

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    Epic: An email I got

    Spellcheck:  Yes
    Excessive Formality:  Yes
    Grammars:  Sometimes missing

    Hello Professor:

    My name is --------, please notate I prefer to be referred to as ------.  My Student  id # is -----. I am requesting an email of your syllabus, because I was unable to attend your class on Monday as scheduled due to a complete schedule change and rearranging.  It is my greatest concern to report to class prepared and knowledgeable of any material that will be taught on Wednesday. In order to due so I will need your syllabus emailed to me by the next working day which is Tuesday. I greatly appreciate your time and patience.

    Thanks in Advance.

    P.S I  am enrolled in your  ---  class --- as of ----

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    Technical Issues

    Some technical issues arose tonight.  Let me paint you a word picture...

    Sarah and I wished to enjoy some Castle, streamed to our TV via PlayOn.  We boot everything up, and it can't access my Hulu queue or play any videos.  I restart everything, still doesn't work.  So I update PlayOn, which required a full download as opposed to a patch since an audio driver was included in this version as part of their updated stuff.

    What's this, I can't log in to the PlayOn site to download it?  Password recovery not working?  A customer support contact informed me that logging in is not necessary and only my name and email used to buy it are required.  Stupid me, I guess reading the page would have helped.  Whatever.

    Download, install, watch Castle.  Laugh.  Gasp.  Drama?!  Intrigue?!  Castle finishes, it was a good episode.  Go onto my computer to do computery things.  I am led toward a flash game platformer.  Huh, it has no music.  That's weird, but whatever.  Beat it, it was good.  Sarah asks me to turn on some music.  I do, but later we realize that no sound is coming out.  Itunes is doing things, my little audio indicator is moving up and down, meaning activity.  Youtube produces no sound either, WHAT IS GOING ON?!

    I surmise that PlayOn must have caused the error.  It was, after all, the only thing that updated, and that included a new audio driver.

    I turn off PlayOn, still no good.

    I tell PlayOn to not start on boot and restart.  No jingle, still no worky.

    PlayOn forum search for the keyword 'audio' gives me a topic saying that Windows 7 has an issue where if an audio driver is installed, it is made default and that switching the default back to my normal driver should do it.

    It didn't.

    Reboot?  No.  :(

    FUCK!  What the hell do I need to do.  Back to audio settings.  Configure?  Test?  I heard a noise in the sound test.  Back to iTunes....nothing.

    Uninstall PlayOn audio driver.


    Rollback default audio driver.  Apparently got rolled back to not existing.  Fuck.

    Offbrand on-board audio card driver download sites look scary, where's that driver CD.? Not in the motherboard box.  Not outside.  Oh, it WAS in the box, but it fell out and I didn't see it lying there.  CD does funny things on autorun.  Browse CD...Driver/Audio/Setup.exe  go!  Finishes, wants to reboot.  Ok, you do that.  Heard the shut down jingle.  HUZZAH!

    We'll just have to see if I can reinstall the PlayOn audio driver without fucking myself in the ass again.  Hopefully, if it happens again, I can uninstall my default audio driver and reinstall it and hope that the same bug that causes the problem will fix it.

    -Taufmonster, Out

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    Shadow Priests are Awesome!

    I recently got my Priest to level 80 and have been running Shadow in order to get gear.  I have a love/hate relationship with the spec.  Let's start with the hate.

    The Bad
    I have a rough time figuring out what I should do on trash pulls.  Should I dot?  Should I use Mind Sear?  Should I dot and THEN Mind Sear?  Since many DPSers do so much damage, it's difficult for my dots to be effective.  But my general rule is this:
    • 1 or 2 mobs: dot all of them.
    • 3 mobs:  dot one, then Mind Sear on that mob.
    • 4 or more:  Mind Sear
    Try to dot the mob that most of the DPS isn't targeting, so the dots will be effective.  But if it's one big mob and several little mobs, dot the big mob.

    The Awesome
    What makes Shadow Priests awesome?  Several things.  For one, they have great utility spells.
    • Psychic Horror:  3-second horror effect and a 10-second main and ranged weapon disarm.  The horror effect will stop the mob dead in its tracks, and can function as an interrupt if you really need one.  The ranged weapon disarm effect will help you deal with those hunters in Halls of Reflection.
    • Silence:  5-second silence effect/3-second interrupt effect on NPCs that can't be silenced.  45-second cooldown.  Hate those mages in Halls of Reflection?  Does that boss have an ability that can be interrupted?  This is the spell for you.
    Wait a second, Shadow Priests have utilities against casters, melee, and hunters?  NO WAY!

    Yes way, my friend, and it's totally awesome.  And if all else fails, there's still
    • PSYCHIC SCREAM!:  Makes 5 targets around you run in fear for 8 seconds.  30 second cooldown.  Seriously, how is this not awesome.  OH NO! the healer can't keep up because the tank was overzealous and pulled too much.  BAM!  Take that!  Problems solved.  I guess the just needed to call the psychic friends hotline. :sunglasses:  YEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!
    No, seriously, this ability doesn't get enough play during those crucial moments where it would be useful.  Back to serious mode now.
    • Dispersion:  Reduces damage taken by 90% for 6 seconds but you can only move.  Also recovers 6% of your mana every second (36% total).  I love this ability.  I use it mostly to get my mana back while moving between pulls or if there is some big damage coming that I don't want to take.  My crowning achievement was tanking King Dred for six seconds after the tank died allowing us to bring him down.
    • Dispel Magic:  Removes to magic effects from either a friend or foe.  Awesome.
    • Power Word: Shield - Yes, Shadow Priests can cast Power Word: Shield without breaking Shadowform, because it's a Discipline spell.  Think about that next time your tank is about to take a large hit, or when healing becomes difficult.
    • Vampiric Embrace:  Heals the priest for 25% of all damage s/he deals and other party member are healed for 5% of the damage (with talents).  Because of this ability, I usually account for 10% of the healing in a dungeon, and about 40% of the overhealing.  It's not a game-changing amount of healing, but it will help your healer save some mana and can help slightly during particularly rough spots.
    • Replenishment:  Shadow Priests also offer replenishment to the party whenever they cast Mind Blast on a target affected by Vampiric Touch.
    • Misery:  +3% chance for all spells to hit the target.  Comes from the Shadow Priest's dots.
    How can you not look at that list and say, "Wow, Shadow Priests are so cool.  Where can I get one?"  The sad truth is that most priests run a healing spec so they can get into random dungeons faster.  But if you have a friend who plays a Priest, ask them, "Have you ever tried Shadow?"

    The new Elemental Shaman Heroic Strategy

    See boy, dat how you kill dragon.

    In patch 3.3, a new spell was added to the Shaman arsenal, Fire Nova.  This has replaced Fire Nova Totem and produces a same-damage effect, just centered around (and not destroying) your current Fire Totem.  This spell has completely changed the way that I approach DPS in 5-man Heroics.  I used to use my single target DPS rotation and would mix in Chain Lightning liberally.

    However, I am now a bringer of burst AOE hell.  My DPS has gone up at least 40% on trash pulls (depending on the size of the pull).  The spec to go along with this technique is here, with 3 points to place where you see fit.  You'll notice that I have brought Fire Nova's cooldown to 3 seconds, and brought down the cooldown of Thunderstorm and increased its mana return.  Here is how you play the spec:

    1. Stay on your tank's butt.  Time spent running to the mobs is time wasted.
    2. If your tank has aggro'd and you aren't in melee range yet, fill that time with a Flame Shock while you run, or an Elemental Mastery'd Chain Lightning.
    3. Get into melee range, and drop Magma Totem.
    4. Use Chain Lightning, then Fire Nova and Thunderstorm as you move slightly out of melee range w/ the movement allowed by the instant cast nature of Fire Nova and Thunderstorm.
    5. Repeat Fire Nova and Chain Lightning when ready and fill gaps with Lava Bursts and Lightning Bolts.
    6. WIN!
    This will, if your tank isn't ready for it, produce a ton of aggro (and damage!).  So make sure to feel out your tank to see how much of this they can handle and whether or not you need to back off.  This tactic, if used aggressively is extremely potent and dangerous.  Remember, you're playing with Fire (Nova)!

    As tempting as this strategy is to use in raids, I wouldn't recommend it.  It runs serious risks of pulling aggro AND MORE IMPORTANTLY makes sacrifices to the Shaman's single-target DPS (read: most bosses), where your DPS is needed more.

    Taufmonster, out.

    Friday, January 1, 2010

    2009: In review. 2010: A preview.

    2009 is the year that I proposed to and moved in with Sarah.  It is the year that I decided to switch to studying Statistics.  This was the year that I started to tutor children, and have learned much in the process.  It has been a year for making decision that are going to affect my entire life.  It's been a defining year.  It's been a year of learning.  A year of sacrifice.

    In 2010, I should get my Masters Degree and join the workforce.  I should lay out a definite 5-year plan.  I should get married.  I should sell a bunch of this old lame stuff that I have around that I don't need or want anymore.  I should teach more, and I should learn more.

    Things I want to accomplish next year (not relating to school/jobs/marriage):

    • work on making a blog that people would actually want to read
      • develop writing skills
      • come up with a good idea
    • learn a new programming language
    • learn to make web pages (could function for the previous item)
    • work on my piano playing
    • expect more from myself.
    So much has happened this past year.  So much will happen this next year.  This is a very pivotal moment in my life and I should work my hardest to make it go as smoothly and as well as possible.