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Stands to reason that, when making a shooter, it’s pretty important that your guns not suck. Well, it’s a good thing Mass Effect is a story-driven RPG, rather than a straight blast-’em-up in the vein of Warframe, because… wow, did they drop the ball when it comes to the pointy end of the stick.

This shape seems so familiar, but frustratingly, it's eluding me right now.

This shape seems so familiar, but frustratingly, it’s eluding me right now.

The weapon models themselves aren’t bad – barring perhaps that one sniper rifle model which was designed by a guy who wasn’t going to let being on the weapons team stop him from building a suspension bridge – and I do love the way that they fold up neatly for storage in the Ninja Turtle equipment harness. Thing is, there are only two models for each weapon class – one sleeker model that looks a bit lozenge-y around the edges, and another boxier model that comes with optional pretty lights that change colour like those Nikes the cool kids wore in the 90s.

So, a bit short of a visual feast, even considering the inevitable palette swaps. For even more sameyness, all weapons in any given type seem to share the exact same sounds. But what about when it comes to using them? Let’s break it down by types. Yes, I’m ignoring the rich story and nuanced background in favour of reviewing the weapons from a game released more than half a decade ago. I came here to shoot stuff and earn Renegade points, and I’m all out of dialogue options. Deal with it.

Pistols come heavily recommended by practically every guide on the planet, and it isn’t hard to see why. They’re pretty accurate, can maintain a decent fire rate, and do fair to excellent damage – plus there’s the ability to use them as a cheap and dirty sniper rifle with a few points in the associated skill. But more than that, pistols actually feel like they should – there’s visible recoil, a nice flash, and the pistol firing sounds are… excusable. Yeah, that’s the furthest I’ll go for “pop pop pew” sounds, even in spaaace.

"You know what would be great right now? If my weapon suddenly became a useless piece of shit for like six seconds."

“You know what would be great right now? If my weapon suddenly became a useless piece of shit for like six seconds.”

Shotguns are surprisingly handy. Most gaming shotguns have all the range of a kitten batting a ball of string, and will hit approximately as hard outside of their designated effectiveness bubble. Mass Effect’s shotguns pack a fair wallop close in, but across-the-room distances aren’t too much of an issue either, and while you’ll still get some spread at least it doesn’t seem to nerf damage based on distance. Which is to say, shotguns weren’t balanced around PvP. What horrors have been unleashed on gaming by “competitive balance”…

Sound-wise, the shotgun roar reminds me more of something heavy being dragged out from underwater than of a weapon’s report, and I can’t help finding it slightly hilarious that the early shotguns fold up smaller than a pistol. It’s a class that feels great to use, though, in the handful of moments before your heat overloads. Which is exactly what you want happening in the close quarters where a shotgun would be most useful. Genius design, lads.

Assault rifles have no weakness, excepting perhaps the exceedingly poor damage that early-game buzzguns are saddled with. And I do mean buzz – the assault rifle has the least feel and feedback of any of the weapon types. Hold down the trigger, vague droning happens and you’ll occasionally catch a flash of light in the air as enemies’ health bars steadily recede. Oh, sure, the reticle grows as you hold down the trigger, and it’ll overheat unless you implement a modicum of restraint in timing your bursts, but the gun doesn’t really seem to react much. The whole business is reminiscent of a lady’s familiar intimate aid – it’ll hum along to a more-or-less guaranteed satisfactory conclusion, but it’s missing that certain something by comparison with the Real Thing™.

Nevertheless, the all-round usefulness of the assault rifle has led to a schism in my mind… my logical, min-maxing superego wants to use the assault rifle for everything, because it slices, it dices, and it’ll even cut through a coke can from before they went all environmental on us. Meanwhile my Slaaneshi id is screaming that it wants to be entertained, dammit, so grab something – anything – else, and go to town.

Id’s argument has grown steadily stronger since its discovery that Immunity + Shotgun + Storm = Good Times.

Hey dere, dollink. Doink anyting later?

Hey dere, dollink. Doink anyting later?

If pistols are the darling of every guide, sniper rifles are the proverbial unwanted nephew living under the stairs. Unjustified? Not entirely – without a significant investment in the skill, sniper rifles bob and weave like Jackie Chan on a vodka bender. Later-game sniper rifles mitigate this problem, and the more points (or aim stabilising mods) you invest, the better it gets. Much like the fandom of a certain under-stairs dweller, I’ve developed an inordinate fondness for the sniper class of weapons – while a lot of the game’s combat takes place at bad-breath range, there’s enough left over to make standing back and picking off enemies a worthy sideline. This is particularly true when fighting miserable pirates or mercenaries who tend to huddle behind cover, and after dealing with the dismal pile of annoyance and uselessness that is the Mako, picking off enemies from across the valley can be therapeutic in the very best way. Moreover, the tendency of sniper crosshairs shake and rattle under fire might seem like a nuisance, but it also makes these rifles as a class the best candidate for actually making the user feel like a part of combat.

That last sentence may seem paradoxical, given the stand-off nature of a marksman’s weapon. Try then to understand that, despite everything this post has said up until now, combat is actually pretty enjoyable. Boggling, isn’t it?

Grenades are, strictly speaking, more of a consumable resource than a weapon, but they still bear mentioning. Mostly because, well, why are they frisbees? The travel time is atrocious, timing the explosions is unpleasant, and they never seem to have the explosion radius that one would expect even with a high-ex mod. There’s also no way that I’ve found to replenish them between missions, unlike medi-gel, so they come down to being somewhere between too frustrating and almost too precious to use.

The second game in the series awaits, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to it. By all reports the developers made some fantastic missteps in terms of combat, combined with a few inspired improvements. I’ll be happy just as long as their assault rifles don’t immediately draw comparison to dildos.

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Expect to hear more about it here in coming weeks.

Riiight. Well, that worked out magnificently.

So, what has been the goings on since that rather cheerful review of Warframe? The honest answer should be “many things”. Troublesome, since it’s easier to maintain a regular posting schedule with a focus on a single subject. What has been occupying my attention – quite significantly – is tangling with the opening areas of a few different games.

Warframe was the first betrayal. I quit the game some months ago, somewhat put out by the fact that the starting experience engendered an impossibility of actually getting anyone interested in the game – an issue since supposedly addressed by an overhaul, but too late. Starting players would have no good mods for damage and survivability, and the crafting system made actually building one’s first decent weapon prohibitively difficult, if at least one wanted it before the extreme difficulty jump that was the Earth region. So most people introduced to the game would simply lose interest at that step in the linear path. While a good game, its teamwork-oriented nature meant that chasing away one’s fellows was in the end an unforgivable sin.

In leaving Warframe, I resolved to once more throw myself into the headwaters of Nostalgia. Deus Ex: Human Revolution was mentioned some time ago, along with the miserable abomination that is Fallout 3. While the attempt had met with mixed success, Human Revolution was worthy, and so I hoped to repeat this success.

Casting the lingering shadows of Fallout from my thoughts, the next obvious choice was the latest extension of a franchise dear to me for some time; that is to say, Disciples III: Resurrection. Perhaps the fact that this was in fact a redesign of the original troubled Disciples III release should have been a warning sign. Alas, no.

Everyone hates imps...

This is the most basic enemy possible and it has 40 evasion. By contrast, character starts with 10 accuracy if they’re lucky.

Here the hideous hydra that is early-game misery once more raised its ghastly heads. Enemy packs seem to be statted for some other series, with early enemies being far too heavy on evasion for the meager abilities of starting units. Crowd-control units with abilities such as paralysis and baleful polymorph have had damage added to them, and despite the concepts of elemental immunities and general armour having been removed, somehow the designers of this game saw fit to retain units immune to physical damage as a mainstay of the undead faction. In short, a mess, particularly early on.

Possibly the most tragic aspect of this whole struggle is that, upon muddling through the early levels of the campaign, the game becomes much more enjoyable. Buried under the dross is an actual, enjoyable title, ruined by poor starting progression – indeed, I would have dismissed this game entirely in the first hour were it not for a combination of stubbornness and lingering affection for the magnificent second entry into the series.

In between playing the early areas of Disciples – of whose campaign I have yet completed only two of the four races’ stories – I attempted to mitigate the exhaustion by trying my hand at a few other games, most notably KOTOR II. This game received near-universal praise; surely it couldn’t be another dud?

Perhaps I was in the end the architect of my own dismay. You see, after spending twenty or so minutes scrabbling in my brain to remember which feats were useful back in the halcyon days of D20 3.0, I elected to play the prologue. The expectation was an introduction to the game mechanics and perhaps, like some other games, a small starting advantage in experience transferred over to the campaign.

Oh, how deeply one can be cut.

ffffuuuu

I have a bad feeling about this…

You see, the prologue is not played as the character which one has carefully sculpted from base clay only moments previous. Oh no. Instead, the player is treated to a sequence played as an astromech droid. For anyone not familiar with Star Wars canon, let it be known that these droids are not even vaguely humanoid, being instead mechanical caretakers of their ships. And this ship was in dire straits indeed – near-obliterated, with segments of the hull open to the gaping void of space. Exciting! Except that no indication of how or why this happened was forthcoming, and the debris-ridden mess was only relevant in that it provided a reasoning for obtuse puzzles. As I directed the wretched automaton around this ship, with its peculiarly unwilling portals and surfeit of scrap metal, I did eventually come across my character. Huzzah! Truly a moment of triumph, seeing my prospective avatar… slumped on a sick-bed, portended to be unable to even survive until the ship could put into port.

So much for heroism.

Dude, she's like, in a coma...

So heroic!

It seems that the only real reason for having the character present at all was to justify being unable to open doors into hard vacuum, though by this point dark thoughts of carelessly slaying this in-game incarnation were already gathering behind my brows. But no, I soldiered on, eventually fulfilling the meaningless tasks designed to bring the ship into port, and then…

On the plus side, apparently booty shorts are still a thing in the future.

On the plus side, apparently booty shorts are still a thing in the future.

And then awoke in a glass jar, alone and with no materiel, in a seemingly deserted complex. At this point I resolved to put aside the game for another day, possibly during the recuperation period from severe brain damage. No advancement of the story had occurred, no meaningful interaction with the universe had been achieved. I had, to paraphrase, not yet begun to play.

Why are these games so terrible in their early stages? Even the acclaimed Mass Effect, another title which I recently started playing, is much less pleasant when the character is in its larval stages. Surely it is common sense to introduce the player in such a way as to engender satisfaction rather than frustration? To leave one craving more, rather than desiring respite from the exhaustion?

Back in the early days of gaming, demos were an accepted part of a game’s release. Gamers could play through the first act – in part or in its entirety – and assess their enjoyment of the product based on this glimpse. Some years ago, game demos fell out of fashion – and looking at this crop of games from years past, it is not difficult to see why. Shoddy implementation, poor balance, little encouragement to the player – even in the case of the suddenly popular Early Access model, the intent seems to be to fleece the prospective player before they have had more than the most cursory glimpse afforded by overly optimistic publications and developers.

Perhaps this is simply a hazard of casting one’s attention back to games of yesteryear – though today’s offerings are an unexciting bunch. Still, it is dispiriting that so many make the same misstep coming over the threshold, and I have my doubts that the trend has passed.

Earlier in the year I traded my subscription in for three-month game time cards. Current one runs out at the end of the month, and I’m not renewing it.

If you're doing something, do it properly.

If you’re doing something, do it properly.

Horribly enough, there’s no option to supply Blizzard with a “why I’m unsubbing” message if you’re on prepaid, which calls into question every single thing they’ve ever said about reasons why people unsub. They’re just not getting feedback from people who are using game cards, and in my experience, that’s most of the player base. Not to mention that I switched to prepaid partly because I wasn’t sure if I’d want to keep playing.

This has been a while coming. I submitted an ingame CS ticket explaining one of the issues – to whit, that Blizzard seems to think that grinding on alts is gameplay, and I tend to think that playing different characters with different abilities is gameplay. But there’s no room in 500 characters for all of the reasons, so in order of “hey I should remember to put this down”, here we go:

  • Alts. I’m an altoholic who has spent the entire expansion playing a single character. I dislike feeling that time spent on an alt means less effectiveness on my raiding toon. I dislike having to grind stuff on alts that I’ve already unlocked on my main – and yes, the commendations and timeless isle stuff is much better, but commendations were after a huge chunk of the base quit already, and timeless comes at the end of the expansion, when Blizzard admit that they relax the rules. That doesn’t bode well for alt-play in the future.
  • Melee DPS are second-class citizens, and I don’t see that going away. I like smacking things in the face, but Blizzard’s encounter designers don’t seem to believe in this as a valid playstyle, and their graphics team can’t seem to figure out how to make non-casters look and feel impressive.
  • Timeless Isle style content doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t want to run around looking for rares and arriving just too late, or grinding mobs to spawn a better mob that I don’t get to before someone kills it, or doing anything involving fucking Shaohao rep. But at the WoD announcement, TI-style content was trumpeted as the way of the future. Yeah, not my future, thanks. I’d rather they look back at Domination Point.
  • Artificial gating. The worst was requiring us to earn reputations in order to spend our valour, and that persisted right up to Shado-Pan Assault, aka the final tier of valour gear. Fantastic idea there, guys. Totally not still bitter about that shit. This feeds heavily into the alt issue, because climbing those gates the second or third time was just never worth it. But it’s also the little things, like putting major content hubs out in the middle of bloody nowhere with no quick way to get there. Sure, flight paths let you see the world… but it’s five minutes that the “player” is not actually playing the game.
  • A minor point: I went on holiday, and didn’t miss the game at all. I was relieved. That’s not something you want your players feeling – that not playing feels like a pressure draining from behind the eyes, that the distortion this pressure caused was robbing everything else of its delight.
  • Finally: boneheadedness, specifically on Blizzard’s part. The current Blizzard design team is very sensitive to criticism, and seems to respond to any well-considered argument with “well, that’s true, but another segment of our playerbase experiences [x hair-raising idiocy] differently” or the old favourite “players on the forums are not representative of the overall base”. As I pointed out earlier with regard to unsub reasons, Blizzard is not above using non-representative data when it supports their view. There’s a term for that, and it is confirmation bias.

    The current design team take months to fix issues that players feel very strongly about, apparently simply because they don’t want to admit that they came up with a poor design. They blame players for not testing for them, especially in PvP, even when issues are pointed out to them before the content goes live. They carry elements that are not fun forward – see again rep gating for valour gear, culminating in not even having a valour tier for the latest content. All in all, the design team come across as childish and stubborn.

That final point is something that’s been building up throughout the expansion, and something that is going to carry over to the next. The design team is unable to deal with the fact that they make poor decisions, and that they are dealing with a sophisticated customer base with intimate knowledge of a product that’s been running for a decade now, counting the beta. Their arrogance and stubbornness is as galling as any griefer in LFR.

So yeah. Not sure what’s next… maybe Deus Ex, maybe more shooting, maybe more coding, maybe BDSM or becoming a florist. What’s certain is that it isn’t going to happen in Azeroth.

Yowza.

Yowza.

After a few weeks of running Galakras LFR exclusively, the Evil Eye is mine. Cackle, cackle, cauldrons and spackle, etc.

A couple of Public Service Announcements with regard to this trinket:

  • When mousing over your abilities to check the reduced cooldown, bear in mind that 1.43 minutes is not the same thing as 1 minute 43 seconds. This point may only apply if you’re prone to hot and cold running derp. No, the shiny new statblob did not just shave a whole 17 seconds off of Avenging Wrath.
  • I’m not convinced that the math on this thing is entirely straightforward. A 31% reduction on a 2 minute ability should math out at 2 – (0.31 * 2) = 1.38, but it’s somehow showing as 1.43.

On to the paladin-specific issues. Yes, you knew there were going to be issues, you’er reading my blog after all. Don’t act all innocent and wounded, we both knew where this relationship post was headed.

Okay, so this may be less paladin-specific than one would think – I wouldn’t be surprised if other classes have similar issues, but I don’t know the classes as well and, more importantly, I don’t have this trink on any of them.

The Eye messes with our talent choices. Not by reducing CDs on our active talents – that’d actually be pretty cool. No, the messing about is more subtle. With the advent of Mists, we received a tree that was supposed to give us some freedom in picking and choosing our abilities, with no real wrong choices. Unfortunately, if you want to choose anything other than Sanctified Wrath now, you’re wrong.

See, with a lower CD on wings, the benefit of SW is also active more often. Meanwhile, Holy Avenger is unaffected by the change, and Divine Purpose – being a passive effect – is just as static. But at least neither of those abilities actually breaks the CD reduction – unlike Clemency. See, Clemency gives us two charges on our Hand abilities. Unfortunately, a couple of those Hands are in the list of abilities modified by the Eye, but if you have Clemency, the CD reduction completely fails to apply. I can sort of see their point – we’d be able to throw more hands around than a squid in a rubber glove factory – but it still feels broken, since it means that we don’t get a benefit from 2 of our 6 reduced abilities.

So, what to take instead? Unbreakable Spirit, which modifies another ability covered by the Eye? Yeah, we’ve seen how that works out. How about Hand of Purity? See, despite being a good candidate for the most situational talent in the tree, HoP is actually the one and only talent to which the Eye grants its benevolent glance.

So much for “major abilities”, huh? This is a DoT-reduction talent, which states in the tooltip “less for some creature attacks”. That makes it a talent only useful for cheesing some boss mechanics, but which is nerfed not to actually be able to cheese said mechanics. And rather than give us a reduction on something genuinely good – like our 90 talents, for instance – they decided to try and buff what is, in the end, a lackluster also-ran. *sigh*

Regardless, as a CD-driven class I’m looking forward to letting rip with the Eye in my corner. Just wish that it felt a little less… limiting.

There’s a post up on WoWInsider asking “how bad is raiding for melee?“. Take note of the assumption there… the question isn’t “is raiding worse for melee”, but rather “how much worse is life in melee range”. My answer? Harder than ranged, but easier than Cataclysm.

Lest we forget, Cataclysm’s raids – and even 5-mans – were the most hideous collection of anti-melee mechanics imaginable. Taking any melee at all to a tier 11 raid basically meant gimping your raid group. And it wasn’t just the mechanics – balance issues between melee and ranged were bad enough that in the end Blizzard simply dropped an extra 10% AP for melee only onto one of the standard raid buffs.

Now, anyone who relied on their weapon for most of their damage got a bit of the short stick in 5.2 and 5.3. That’s mostly looking better now, but it’s pretty clear that WoW’s design team has serious, long-running issues trying to balance melee DPS at all. Now that that’s out of the way…

What I really want to talk about is movement and positioning. I’m seeing a couple of responses to the tune of “I’m a mage, but…” or “as a healer…” that basically talk about how melee don’t move out of bad. To these people, I propose an experiment; put autoattack on a bar somewhere, get into a range where you’re autoattacking, and simply stay there. Don’t DPS unless your autoattacks are in range, and simply see if you can keep up any pretense of damage while staying alive. Oh yeah, and no standing in front of the boss, even if it doesn’t cleave; remember, for anyone who can be parried or dodged that’s a 15% damage penalty.

There’s a reason why ranged players stay the hell out of melee range. It’s bloody dangerous there. So it’s pretty insulting that range are speaking about how melee don’t have difficulties of their own, they’re just not trying hard enough. Hell, enhancement shaman’s major cooldown is based around temporarily turning them into a ranged spec. It’s pretty clear that there are advantages to being ranged.

There are a couple of points boiling over onto each other here. The first is that making characters run away from bad is an easy way to make people feel active. The next is that persistent ground effects are an easy way to ratchet up tension and introduce quick decision-making. Moving from the puddle into the fire isn’t a good choice, and situations like this lend themselves to strategic positioning – drop the fire here, so when the puddle lands I can go there. Lastly, landing patches of bad as projectiles will often give players the opportunity to pre-emptively move away. This is all good stuff so far; taking advantage of these conditions is simply good design.

The issues creep in with the extra constraints that melee have. Most obviously, they’re limited by range – while ranged players have a depth of 30-40 feet from the hitbox to park their bad in, melee need to be right up against that invisible circle. Some bosses have large hitboxes, which is great… but bosses designed around surviving specific floor mechanics seem to have a habit of living in tiny hitboxes. That’s not great for our face-smashing chums.

Complicating the above even further, melee don’t get to position themselves in front of the boss. That space is reserved for the tank, usually because of some sort of cone effect that either applies a debuff or simply does a ton of damage straight off the bat. Even if this weren’t the case, melee still get to deal with dodge and parry mechanics, which are a serious disadvantage at best and a nightmare at worst. This means that only the rear half of the boss’ hitbox is actually home territory for us. So a simple puddle that’s just a 5×5 foot blotch somewhere out in a ranged player’s 30-40 foot zone can easily mean a significant reduction of a melee player’s available space… and this gets worse with multiple melee.

The traditional answer that ranged come up with at this point is that tanks should simply move the boss. Well, leaving aside that some bosses can’t be moved at all, tanks are melee players as well. They’re dealing with the exact same positioning issues that we have, barring the requirement to attack from behind, but they at least get the option to move into open space that’s convenient to them. Non-tanks, being less important, get to suck it up and chase around the bad that the tank was getting away from in the first place while the ranged players mostly stand still and keep going full steam ahead.

The above is even discounting tank swaps and other mechanics that cause the boss to spin round and target other players… Iron Qon was particularly bad for this, but many bosses will turn and suddenly start parrying the melee while they apply whatever manner of bad they prefer to some arbitrary player. These little turnabouts can be atrocious when the boss decides to turn as the player hits a keystone attack – Colossus Smash, say, or a Templar’s Verdict.

Even further reducing the available space, tanks and sometimes the melee will be constrained by healer availability. Standing way out on the far side of a boss because that’s the only spot you can find that isn’t occupied by some flavour of instant death doesn’t help anyone when the next AoE pulse kills you because you’re out of range of the healers on the ranged side. This is especially problematic with large bosses.

Now, melee don’t have a choice between moving and doing less damage versus standing still and dying. No, the melee choice is often a dichotomy of move and do no damage at all or stand and die. Our decision-making process has to take this into account. All of these constraints mean that melee move differently than ranged. It’s easy to see… just go and run Stone Guard with Jasper up. A ranged player chained to a melee will inevitably end up bitching and whining that they’re being killed because the melee are moving wrong… meanwhile the ranged player’s first instinct is to run to clear ground away from the boss, where the melee’s choice is to strafe around and find a relatively safe spot next to a boss. It’s not the melee’s fault that they’re not heading for the obvious safe ground – we just don’t have that option if we want to be effective at all.

Next, we can talk about projectiles. A lot of mechanics nowadays mark a patch of ground before they land, and a descending bolt of doom will appear that moves toward this patch. Bolt lands, boom, dead. Unfortunately, when these bolts target melee we simply don’t have as much time to move as ranged do. Witness the Embodied Gloom’s mechanics in SoO, or for an even better example, the rogue bosses of Battlefield: Barrens and their poison patches. Those poison bolts were ridiculously punishing to melee thanks to their large size and, while ranged could dodge them, they landed instantly in our range.

There are any number of other effects that tend to disproportionately affect melee – whirlwinds, mobs that need to be kited, etc – but in raids, it’s mostly availability of safe space that kills us.

Note that when I mentioned available space earlier I didn’t mention the room under the boss. This is partly because large bosses tend to have damage mechanics or at least a simple knockback for anyone sharing their groundspace, and partly because standing under a large model is a good way to completely ruin any chance of escaping from voidzones. Much more difficult to run from something you can’t even see, after all. This gets worse with the visual clutter that many classes apply to obscure the battlefield as an incidental part of their roles. In between bobbing and weaving through Stampede pets, other melee, AoEs, Healing Rain/Efflorescence/HW:Sanc/whatever else, it can be easy to lose track of which group of pixels is your character. It might be fine if we didn’t have to play zoomed way the hell out, but some bosses – Immerseus, I’m looking at you – have killer effects that can’t even be seen until zoomed out to the point where the character’s basically indistinguishable from their minimap dot.

So that’s the explanation of why melee die a lot and seem to be moving very differently from how ranged expect. So, what are the solutions? They’ve all been suggested before – fewer close-range AoE pulse effects, less focus on ground effects in melee range, subtler spell effects, targeting ranged by preference, etc. The biggest issue with retargeting mechanics out at range seems to be that healers would be affected as well, and healers are upward of the priority pile. Also, if melee aren’t getting targetted, ranged players tend to get very sarcastic.

What about making melee players tougher? Some melee do wear plate, which is a fair chunk of mitigation – but that only applies to physical damage, in a world where most raid damage is elemental. Worse, though, a lot of melee wear leather or mail. Rogues probably get the best of the deal, with Feint giving a significant reduction one AoE. But in raids, casters are often much better protected than even plate-wearers, with their passive mitigations and armouring spells that reduce magical damage. There’s something a bit off with that. Even pets are given a base AoE damage reduction on the understanding that micromanaging movement is difficult, and at some point anything in melee is going to end up in bad..

As far as positioning is concerned, Blizzard has been making quiet noises to the effect that expertise and hit aren’t very interesting as stats. I’d at least like to see expertise or its replacement giving us the ability to hit the boss from the sides or front without losing such an obscene amount of damage as we do at present. Giving us more places to go can only be better. We’ve been in the same place for two expansions now.

Blizzard recently announced a tentative completion percentage of 25% on new character models. That’s great and all. It’s kicked off a few forum threads and a couple of called-in articles. There seems to be a pretty common preference established with regard to reworking the Forsaken, though, and it’s one that has me shaking my head in puzzlement. To whit, most folks in favour of a rework want our undead chums to ensure their knees and elbows remain inside the model for the duration of the ride.

Your average forsaken, giving approximately zero fucks

Your average forsaken, giving approximately zero fucks

That’s… kind of awful.

Yeah, the forsaken have some issues with their model. Mostly revolving around the fact that they have awful turtle necks, chest armour that distorts in a curve making them look like they’re melting, and anything other than heavy plate-style boots looking awful thanks to being cut off at the ankle. Still, they are – like most of the other Horde races barring belves – humanoid without looking like humans run through a stretch tool.

Do people really want to play humans with bad skin and worse posture? The forsaken animation set is awesome, and that alone distinguishes them, sure. But bones poking through the skin? That’s a powerful visual signal, even in stills. It’s an identity. Given how many complaints come from the stretched humans (and their special guests the draenei) about how alliance has no identity… I think it’s worth holding onto, don’t you?

That said, it’d be remiss to end this post without a little hypocrisy. One thing I would like is asymmetrical bones – elbow poking through one side, knee on the other – rather than all four contact points. Ideally have it customisable similarly to the jawline – full, half one way, half the other, completely gone. I like diametrical symmetry, but others might like the evened-out look, and still others might prefer complete asymmetry.

Just don’t make it possible to create a forsaken without bones. That’d be a tragedy.