World of Warcraft – Mists of Pandarian Cinematic Trailer

Here’s the newly revealed cinematic:

The beginning reminds of me of the Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos intro cinematic, where a human and orc duel, only to be greeted by a more powerful enemy:

Could this throwback to Warcraft 3 be in anyway a hint to a possible future Warcraft 4? Who knows.

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Path of Exile Beta Feedback

I made a post last week about my first impressions playing the PoE (closed) beta and shared my experience with the earlier stages of the game, comparing it to Diablo 3.

After about a week, I now have 4 characters:

  • Level 42 Ranger
  • Level 37 Shadow
  • Level 36 Witch
  • Level 35 Marauder

My Ranger is on Act 1 Ruthless while the others are on Act 2 Cruel.

When I wrote my original review, I had great enthusiasm for the game, mostly delighted by the items and passive tree. But now, I think my enthusiasm was based on little more than the truth that “the grass is greener on the other side.” After barely a week of POE, I already feel bored and am switching back to playing Diablo 3 and Starcraft 2.

What I Liked

The passive skill tree itself is amazing.

The way items, skills, and skill gems work is pretty cool too.

Finally, the combat system is, for the most part, well done.

What I Did Not Like

There is very little mood or atmosphere. I know that the game is still in beta, but the story is conveyed through dialog boxes, which is pretty old fashioned.

In addition, the game is still insanely gear dependent. Many passive effects and skill effects are directly based on percentages of stats from gear. There should be a combination of scaling from skill level and gear. Things like Ethereal Knives feel really weird because of its sole scaling with skill level, while something like Burning Arrow essentially scales with gear only.

Next, we have the experience loss on death. This is an outdated punishment. It worked in true single-player games like Diablo 2, where a player could truly blame all deaths on himself. But in the era of online-only play, which POE has, you can’t institute such an insane punishment on death. I have personally died in POE due to random lag spikes, and it’s already bad having to walk all the way back through multiple levels of dungeons. I hate losing experience for it as well.

Then there’s the class discrepancy. My dual-wield claw Shadow just dies in seconds against anything if I ever stop moving in melee range. I have to keep kiting around in circles launching Fire Traps to whittle things down, and this happened in both Normal and Cruel.

The funny thing is, I can stand in melee range much longer on my Ranger and Wizard. My Ranger has higher evasion and dps, and can thus hit-stun monsters longer, and my Wizard has a ton of AOE freezing abilities to slow things down. And on my Marauder, I have died like twice the entire time, due to overconfidence or stupid mistake. The Marauder is just so bulky it’s hard to die with. My Shadow probably died like 15 times. In Normal difficulty. And 15 more times in Cruel so far. The rest of my characters combined is probably like 10. The Shadow needs much higher survivability.

Next is the actual usage of the passive tree in practice. This is closely related to the speed of leveling. Leveling at a quick rate = lots of skill points, and so on. The pace is pretty good up to about level 25. But then, it seems the leveling rate slows to a crawl once Cruel starts. It becomes pretty unrewarding, especially when we want that one good passive that’s 3 or 4 nodes away, but it will take an inordinate amount of time to get there.

Plus, the number of practical skill points compared to the size of the tree is insanely small. I pretty much get bored in Act 2 Cruel because leveling becomes so incredibly slow. In addition, the experience loss on death makes this even crueler, especially on my Shadow, which I now have no desire to play.

Now onto combat. One of the things I do not like is the run-away behavior.

In that screenshot, I had literally chased him for about 15 seconds, getting a hit every once in a while due to luck. If I didn’t get a lucky hit for a few seconds, the monster would just start regenerating energy shield and it would take more hits to just knock out the shield.

The auras are also not very creative. Flat damage reduction, flat attack damage or speed boost, extra health, extra energy shield, and the worst one yet, Allies Cannot Die? Diablo 3 at least has interesting ones such as Molten, Fire Chains, and Arcane Enchanted.

Then we have monster abilities. Enemies lose health over time? This one is really frustrating, because there is nothing I can do besides hope I have enough potions to heal through it. And the worst one of all: Perma-freezing.

Some of those frost elemental monsters just spam Cold Snap over and over and over on your position, and you have to keep running. Cold Snap has a chance to freeze, and sometimes you can literally get chain frozen. Once a single Cold Snap freezes you, you’re pretty much doomed since there is a high chance that within a couple seconds, another one will freeze you, leading to perma-freeze.

For those of you who play Diablo 3, imagine if the Frozen affix allowed elites to explode their freeze bombs instantly and chain cast it on top of you. That’s what these monsters are like in POE.

Conclusion

When I wrote my other post, I was just choosing to look at the good aspects of the game. Now that I’ve played it for a much longer time, I have also seen its follies.

It was a well spent $15 for the supporter pack for the beta test of POE, but I think that for now, my $60 on Diablo 3 was far better spent. I hope both games continue to get better. 😀

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1.0.4 Barbarian Buffs

Here is the official Blizzard link.

  • Bash and Cleave will be buffed.
  • Hammer of the Ancients, Seismic Slam, and Rend will be buffed.
  • The tornado build will not be nerfed.

This is a step in the right direction and indeed opens up many possibilities for the class. However, I believe this is nowhere near enough to make all skills and runes useful. Blizzard did not announce that there would be more changes to the class, so it’s safe to assume that these will be the only Barbarian changes in 1.0.4.

Rune Choices

For instance, the vast majority of people who use Frenzy are still going to use the Sidearm rune. The other runes are not being changed, so they cannot really compete. People who use Cleave are still going to use Broad Sweep. People who use Leap are still going to use Iron Impact. The other runes need to be buffed significantly.

Skill Choices

Some skills are still much better than others. Who would take Ground Stomp over Leap or Furious Charge? Who is going to take Threatening Shout over War Cry? We need to make these skills more attractive.

Passive Choices

Even worse, many of the passives are still much better than others. A passive should feel noticeable when you take it.

Good examples:

  • Pound of Flesh – very noticeable increase in Health Globes and healing from them.
  • Ruthless – massive dps boost with crit gear.
  • Superstition – significantly reduces elemental damage, grants decent Fury.

Bad examples:

  • Inspiring Presence – the duration increase is hardly noticeable, while the 1% regeneration per second is equally futile in Inferno.
  • Bloodthirst – the 3% is reduced to 0.6% in Inferno, making the passive feel useless.
  • No Escape – increases the damage of ranged skills by 10%; this should be 20%-30%.

Similar things can be said for Juggernaut and Unforgiving. Even Boon of Bul-Kathos could use a buff.

Conclusion

The changes are headed in the right direction, but are simply not enough. Someone really needs to look at each skill/rune choice and passive and try to make them all feel powerful.

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Is the Virtual World Really An Escape From Reality?

[link] – a post from my real-life blog that has particular relevance here.

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1.0.4 Legendaries

The official blog post is here. The legendaries now seem pretty legen—wait for it—

—dary!

This Youtube video from Blizzard shows some of the new artwork as well:

Some of these just look great, especially the Windforce at the end there. 😀

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Game Psychology: The Superiority Bias in Diablo 3

I originally posted this on the Bnet forums here.

95% of the faculty of the University of Nebraska considered themselves above average in teaching ability and 68% placed their teaching abilities in the top 25%. (Cross 1977)

88% of American college students… considered themselves to be above the 50th percentile on driving safety.

Of the approximately one million students who took [the 1976 SAT], 70% placed themselves above the median in leadership ability, 60% above the median in athletic ability and 85% rated themselves above the median in their ability to get along well with others. Amazingly, 25% of the students rated themselves in the top 1% on this latter characteristic.

These are from a paper published in the American Psychological Association (APA).

The gist is that people commonly think they are more skilled than they actually are.

This is especially relevant for those less skilled, who tend to overestimate their skill. It applies less for those who are highly skilled, having sometimes the opposite effect: Those of extremely high skill tend to underestimate their skill.

The Effect in Diablo 3

The superiority bias (also known as the above-average effect, or the Dunning-Kruger effect in this case) says that people who are not very skilled at the game will overestimate their skill.

Now, the word “skill” is a delicate one in discussing Diablo 3 so I’ll tread carefully.

One must first define “skill” in Diablo 3. It would be ignorant to say that Diablo 3 is 100% skill based, but at the same time, it would be equally ignorant to say that Diablo 3 is 100% gear based. Things are not so black and white.

In general, a less skilled player needs to severely overgear the given content to beat it, a skilled casual can beat the same content with level-appropriate gear, while a top skilled player can beat the same content while severely undergeared.

The concept of superiority bias and the phenomena discussed in this post do not affect only Diablo 3. They affect all gear-based games. This is why whenever Blizzard attempts to tune something to be hard or difficult (e.g., early Cataclysm, early Diablo 3), many players feel that it is too hard, because it is a shock from what they are familiar with just before that, a much easier tuning (e.g., late Wrath of the Lich King, late Lord of Destruction).

To beat Inferno in Diablo 3, one must have a combination of skill and gear level.

Gear required to clear given content by the most highly skilled hardcore gamers
White items [——-|———————] Most Epic Rares

Gear required to clear same content by a skilled casual player
White items [—————|————-] Most Epic Rares

Gear required to clear same content by the average player
White items [————————-|—] Most Epic Rares

Gear required to clear same content by a below-average player
White items [—————————–|] Most Epic Rares

Simply having skill alone is not enough, because you need some baseline level of gear. Having gear alone is also not enough until the very highest levels of gear.

The system as is can be quite unforgiving for average or below-average players. (You cannot possibly argue that there is no such thing as a below-average player–50% of players are below the average player.) These players need the highest levels of gear to defeat the higher level content, yet are the same ones which do not have any access to it.

The problem is that, due to the superiority bias, many of these below-average players believe they are actually skilled players, and thus when they cannot beat some level of difficulty, they assume that no one else can beat it either outside of what they consider to be “cheating,” whether by exploiting, botting, or using the RMAH.

In reality, many players have beaten Inferno without exploiting, botting, or using the RMAH. However, players who are affected with superiority bias cannot easily accept this reality.

Some more interesting results:

In a similar survey, 87% of MBA students at Stanford University rated their academic performance as above the median.

Across four studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd.

So now let’s move to the next question.

What About 1.0.4?

Patch 1.0.4 will make Inferno much easier. The broad notes are here.

The reason I say “much” easier is that they are simultaneously nerfing the content, buffing players, and buffing items, which creates a trinity of difficulty nerfs. Even if each part of the trinity is only affected by 10% (as an underestimation), we’re talking about at least a 33% combined effect (due to multiplicative stacking).

This will skew the skill-gear levels to the lower end. In general, it will be possible to beat the game with lower-level items.

Gear required to clear given content by the most highly skilled hardcore gamers
White items [——-|———————] Most Epic Rares (1.0.3)
White items [—–|———————–] Most Epic Rares (1.0.4)

Gear required to clear same content by a skilled casual player
White items [—————|————-] Most Epic Rares (1.0.3)
White items [————|—————-] Most Epic Rares (1.0.4)

Gear required to clear same content by the average player
White items [————————-|—] Most Epic Rares (1.0.3)
White items [———————-|——] Most Epic Rares (1.0.4)

Gear required to clear same content by a below-average player
White items [—————————–|] Most Epic Rares (1.0.3)
White items [—————————|–] Most Epic Rares (1.0.4)

Fundamentally, we still have the same relative stratification. However, this will alleviate many problems of the average and below-average players, as they will be able to immediately progress. The more skilled players, who have already beaten Inferno, will find this change lackluster as they have already beaten the content, and the nerf provides only an efficiency boost to farming, not a boost to progression, due to the lack of end-game progression.

Conclusions

First, people should be aware of this effect of superiority bias, from both angles. Nobody should reasonably argue that the game is 100% skill or 100% gear.

Second, the nerfing in 1.0.4 will have a short-term psychological effect of making those of lower skill, who are still progressing, feel more skilled at the game, due to the immediate progression when the nerf hits. However, once they reach the next difficulty wall, they will be stuck in the exact same situation, only slightly further up the road. He who could not get past Belial will now be stuck at Ghom. A long-term solution would be to gradually nerf Inferno over time, but I know many people would be against this, and I myself am against it, simply because I believe Inferno should provide some baseline level of difficulty. This is Diablo, not WoW. I believe that Blizzard should come up with something more creative than periodic nerfs.

A smarter long-term solution is to add more features to the endgame, especially more progression paths than just items. There needs to be some other form of progression when you hit level 60, to become gradually more powerful. Things like “champion levels” as suggested by Kripparrian would help solve this issue psychologically.

Patch 1.0.4 will provide a welcome short term band-aid for a large percentage of players. But it does not solve the psychological problem in the long term, since the only form of progression is in items. A secondary character progression system needs to be implemented in some way.

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12th highest parsed Wizard armor in the world? (Also 5th Witch Doctor?) (And 1st Resist All period?)

Looks like my Wizard Narg is in 12th at the moment, with 10366 armor. I wonder what would happen if I borrowed a Monk or Barb armor buff…

Also, this is 7th in US rankings apparently. The compressed version on the character page:

Edit: Just found some more shocking data. I cheesed the system by logging out with the Horrifying Aspect buff on my Witch Doctor, Drix. Result was 5th in the world.

The compressed version:

Edit 2: Holy cow, apparently my Monk, Lxs, has #1 in the world on resists, for all classes…

And the mini-version:

Yeah I know, small sample size is small sample size, and the vast majority of people aren’t on this yet (they released resistance rankings within the past 24 hours it seems). But whatever, I’m happy. 😀

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