Wednesday, December 21, 2011

TOR - Looking past the shiny package

Yesterday, like many I suspect, I spent a few hours playing Bioware's new MMO - The Old Republic.  I would be shocked if anyone reading this blog didn't know what I'm talking about, so I'll cut through the nonsense and get right to the heart of it.  I'll do a little compare/contrast to WoW, what I think is done right, what I think needs improving, and where we go from here.

Yeah, I've got a lightsaber

Actually I don't, it's just some stick with a few bands of metal on it.  I'm sure if I did some lore digging (or other searching) I could figure out what this is, but it's obviously some type of Jedi training weapon.  Whatever.  It almost sounds like a lightsaber, and hey - isn't building your own lightsaber supposed to be part of the Jedi training?

Right now I'm starting off with a Jedi Consular, though I'm sure I'll try all the classes at least once.  My plan is to level this Jedi up taking all the "Light" choices, a Sith with the "Dark", and then I'll probably do some combination of Republic/Dark and Empire/Light.  The fact that those choices are even possible seems pretty awesome right now.  We'll have to see how they actually pan out.

The first 3 hours

Once I finally got the game to install (I didn't pre-download), I went through the character creation process.  There was just enough cusomization, and it was pretty standard Bioware fare.  You couldn't customize your outfit, but given the changes to your outfit from gear, I'm not surprised.  Plus if you were able to design your own look, we'd have a thousand bounty hunters running around in Mandalorian battle armor.  I did notice thought that I look suspisoucly like Neo after my first few levels.  Robes, the shades (I went with the blind race, Miraluka), and even the face.  Hmm...

So, character created, I started out learning the ropes.  Really smooth, controls just like WoW (and every other MMO I'm sure), and the tooltips and hints were pretty handy.  It took a few minutes to learn what all the symbols on the minimap were (I was still looking for big ! for quest givers), and I was off and running.  I didn't spend a lot of time with keybinds or anything, I just wanted to get into it.

Voice quests

I really like the interaction with the quest givers, though I'm sure it would get old if you were running the same zone for the 14th time.  I like that there's some interaction between you and the NPC, instead of simply "go here, bring a package to Jim, and kill 15 Flesh Eaters".  While the basics of the quests are still the same (kill 10 rats, FedEx, go find something), they certainly feel different.  I'm chalking a lot of this up to the voice acting though. 


Oh my goodness, the music is fantastic here.  It changes when there's danger or combat, and it's definately "Star Wars" in feel.  I've actually been playing with the game sounds all turned on, and it's really immersive.  Also the sound effects, so stellar.  While the game was obviously developed with Lucas Arts, I do love how authentic it feels.

Of course, there's bad news

First, I'm fairly certain that Barrens chat follwed me, even though I chose to roll on an RP-PVE server.  While some of the chat text was helpful (I left it on for a bit), I was really disappointed to see that there were still Anal jokes, bad manners, etc.  I'm still trying to figure out just what credits are really worth - for example is 5,000 credits for 10 bag slots a lot?  I don't have anything to reference it with.  I mean, how much will a "mount" cost me?  Do they even have personal mounts?  I'm sure there must be, though the taxi system (and 30 min, go wherever you want hearthstone) is really nice. 

The game is also, unashamedly, a WoW clone in pretty much every aspect of gameplay.  I haven't done any grouping yet, and there are definately some features I wish WoW would adopt (area looting, please for the love of all things holy, let me loot ALL the things), but overall it is different enough to be a good game. 

Closing thoughts

I'm not leaving WoW for TOR, and I certainly don't think TOR will be a WoW killer.  Right now I'm enjoying the newness of the game in a way I haven't done in WoW for about 6 years.  There's no pressure to max out and raid, no speeding along, just enjoying the scenery.  I mean hell, I won't roll a new alt in WoW until I have all my heirlooms, and I haven't enjoyed questing for the sake of questing in a long time.  While I'm sure the new car smell will eventually be replaced by sweaty gym bags, I'm enjoying the fresh perspective on a MMO, and enjoying a new game on its merits - not as a replacement for another game.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Holy Paladins - we're still not raid healers

First, I'm back from my break for NaNoWriMo.  My novel turned into more of a personal therapy writing session - so it's not going to get posted anywhere public.  I learned a lot writing it though, and I'm certainly going to try my hand at the novel that I'd intended.  With any luck I'll be able to churn it out over the next few months, though I'm not going to put myself under the time constraints of NaNo.

Now, with that out of the way, let's talk about Paladin AoE/Raid healing, and why we're still not the best choice for this role.

Holy Radience

In 4.3 Holy Radiance got a drastic change from being a fire and forget AoE heal centered on the caster (with a decent CD), to being a spammable AoE heal.  This is a huge change to our AoE healing arsenal, which up to this point was limited to one AoE every 30 sec, plus Light of Dawn (more on that in a minute).  Unfortunately, it's not all pretty flowers and sparkles in HR land - there's more than one drawback.

First, HR is slow.  It's not debilitatingly slow, but it's the same cast time as our Holy Light and Divine Light.  The only upside there is that it's affected by Infusion of Light as well, so we get that haste buff.  It's also expensive, with the same cast cost as Divine Light. 

Second, the overall healing of HR isn't something to write home about.  Baseline, the spell heals for 2523 - 3205 on the initial cast, and then an additional 493 every second for three seconds.  While we can eek out another tick or so with enough haste, we're still not going to be setting any records here.  My average tick is hitting for just over 3500, however that's averaging out the total heal.  You can reasonably assume that the most you're going to see (per person) out of this heal is about 7k over a 4 second period.  In addition, HR only hits targets that are within 10 yds of your recipient. 

Finally, HR healing does not transfer via Beacon of Light (BOL).  This essentially cuts our healing in half, since every other heal in our arsenal transfers at least 50% of the healing done to our Beacon target. 

***Edit*** I was hoping to get this out earlier, but I missed the change to our 4pc set.  Originally the 20% boost for our 4pc T13 would have made HR very powerful, however this has been reduced to 5% - making it pretty lackluster.

It's not all doom and gloom either though

On the upside, through Tower of Radiance, we are guaranteed to generate a Holy Power every time we cast this spell.  Also, since HR is spammable, we can sprinkle HR throughout the raid, though it's not the most powerful AoE heal in the world.  Because of the cast time though, and the cooldown on Holy Shock, HR lines up neatly with getting a 3HP LoD off every 2 casts of HR.  This can start to become a fairly powerful combo, though it will put some holes in your mana bar.  Depending on how stacked your raid is though, this combination will provide a decent amount of healing in a short period of time.

Light of Dawn

Another change to our AoE healing was the revamp of the Light of Dawn (LoD) glyph.  Previously the glyph would let you add one target to your LoD healing, providing a very solid increase to the BoL target - if you hit all six targets.  This was mostly used in 25m raiding, as getting 6/10 players in your 10m raid to stack up in the right spot was pretty tricky. 

With the change however, 10m (and 5m dungeons) see a pretty significant boost to LoD healing.  Instead of increasing the number of players hit, the number is actually lowered - but the overall healing is increased by 25%.  This allows us to get the same kind of throughput to the BoL target, and actually heal our raid for a little more than before.  This also gives us a 4th major glyph to choose from, and it's actually a pretty solid choice now.

AoE vs Single Target - Communicate

OK, so we've gone over the base numbers for LoD and HR healing, and they don't look too bad.  They aren't stellar, but it's certainly more than we had before.  What we're left with now is deciding what our healing roles are, and where we should be focused in the raid.  A lot of this will come down to your healing team composition, but also what is going on in the raid at any given moment. 

Because HR is not transferred to your BoL target, we have to make a split second decision on what heal to use (finally!).  Here is my mental checklist, that I run through on pretty much every heal.  Fortunately, it doesn't take long, especially once you've practiced it.

  • Is Holy Shock on CD?
  • Is it raid wide damage?
  • How much damage is my BoL target taking?
  • Do I have 3 HP?
  • Where am I in the fight?
Running through this list quickly will let me determine what I need to cast.  This is important especially when we look at the damage our BoL target is taking.  Remember that Holy Light now transfers 100% of the healing done to the BoL target, instead of the 50% that Divine Light, WoG, or HS will transfer.  Because of this, I will almost always cast HL on the target if it is not my BoL target, otherwise they get a different heal.  HL costs (and heals) for about 1/3 of what DL does - but the transfer to your BoL target is what makes the difference.  Also if you're 3/3 in ToR, you're going to get that HP if you use DL instead. 


At the end of all this, Paladins are still the kings of single/dual target healing.  Our AoEs have been buffed to the point where we're no longer a hindrance when it comes to raid healing, however we're certainly not as powerful (or efficient) as any other class when it comes to pure raid/AoE healing.