WildStar Giveaway!

By Lewis Burnell -
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To celebrate the upcoming launch of WildStars first content update (Strain!) we're giving away 5 copies of the game. These 5 digital copies are for the United States only (sorry to our European readers!) and can be redeemed through the official website. As far as the competition is concerned we wanted to keep it super simple:

"What Do You Love About WildStar?" 

It doesn't matter whether you write us a poem, give us a lengthy story, or simply point out the reasons why: just let us know in the comments below and we'll pick the five that we love the most! 

The Small Print

  1. You must provide your entry in the comments below
  2. You can make as many entries as you like
  3. There's no restriction on how you answer the question!
  4. You can only win one digital copy of WildStar
  5. The closing date is the July 4th, 2014

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Welcome to the New Ten Ton Hammer

By Reuben Waters -
0

Game developers often note that embarking on the years-long journey of creating a game on the scale of an MMOG is nothing short of a labor of love. That it takes a dedicated and passionate team to achieve something truly special, and the willingness to see it through.

Smart developers will also note that the launch of an MMOG is really just the beginning of the journey. No matter how much blood, sweat, and tears have gone into that launch day product, the true joy comes in building for the future, and doing so right alongside your fans.

Our journey began back in the spring of 2004 with the original launch of Ten Ton Hammer. We've witnessed countless titles reach for greatness, some of them exceeding anyone's wildest expectations. We've also witnessed some of the harsher realities involved as the stakes of game development continue to rise and some titles didn’t stand the test of time.

We’ve traveled to countless industry events, and even hosted a few of our own, all the while driven by that same combination of dedication, passion, and oftentimes reckless abandon as we continued to wonder what sustenance the MMORPG industry would offer our gamer brains to chew on next.

As Chief Operations Officer and founder of Ten Ton Hammer John Hoskin would put it, when it comes to MMOG’s we’re like hobos on a ham sandwich.

As much as we love consuming what our developer friends in the industry cook up, we have an equal passion for sharing our knowledge, expertise, and opinions with our fellow gamers. Running a successful gaming network for ten years can definitely be a lot of work, but it’s really doesn’t feel like work even at the nuttiest of times when you're doing something you love.

Bigger and Better Things

Today our journey continues in a bold, new direction with the relaunch of Ten Ton Hammer. We could have simply reskinned the old site and called it a day, but knew we could produce something so much better than that for our industry and fans. Hopefully you enjoy the results as much as we’ve enjoyed the process of making this bold new take on the classic Ten Ton Hammer formula a reality.

Just like the MMO games we consider our bread and butter when it comes to gaming industry coverage, we’re looking at this launch as a beginning. It’s been a wild ride to get to where we stand today, but our technical team deserves a lot of credit for taking my wacky ideas, mock-ups, and iterative thinking and translating it into a pretty damn awesome MMOG website.

We’ll be rolling out major patches and updates through the rest of the year and beyond, and can’t wait to continue our journey right alongside the best gaming community on the planet. Take a look around as we get settled into our new home, and be sure to invite your friends to our kick-ass virtual housewarming party.

On behalf of the team from Master Games Intl., welcome to the new Ten Ton Hammer!

- Reuben Waters, editor-in-chief

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WildStar Interview: Stephan Frost

By Lewis Burnell -
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At the WildStar community event last week in London, I had the chance to have a ten minute chat with Stephan Frost. Having only spoken once before over an email interview, there's two things that I took away from our meeting:

  1. My wife's assertion that he is tall, dark and handsome is correct.
  2. He know's this industry and his passion for WildStar is very real. 

With pint in hand, stood outside Meltdown at 11:15pm, here's how we got on. 

Ten Ton Hammer: How are you finding the WildStar media tour?

Frost: I’m finding it well. It’s interesting finally being able to speak about the end game experience. We’ve been doing a big tour through Amsterdam, France and England, so its been cool talking about Warplots, raids and other end-game content.

Ten Ton Hammer: In terms of competition it’s pretty tough out there at the moment. You’ve got Elder Scrolls Online and Guild Wars 2 just having launched their content pack: do you think you’re prepared for that?

Frost: Certainly I think we’re prepared for it. We’re pretty different from those titles, Elder Scrolls especially. We’re a lot different to that kind of MMOG. With Guild Wars 2 they have their own user base and I don’t think we’re going to be robbing from anybody. I don’t think we’ll be losing anyone to them either. They have their own set of individuals so I think we’re coming out at a great time. People can kind of see what the landscape is and make decisions for themselves, to also come and check out the game early.

Ten Ton Hammer: We published an article recently about WildStar potentially being the last AAA title. Do you agree with that, based on how little there is on the horizon?

Frost: Let’s be fair, I think EverQuest Next could be the next triple-A. That question and that comment was also made on a panel at PAX East. I think it was the guy from Goblin Works that basically said that WildStar would be the last and I smiled to myself. He said triple-A for a reason and I think that’s because we are a triple-A quality subscription MMOG that’s going to be coming out. In that same panel that I had mentioned was funding and I think that’s going to be the thing that’s very difficult to grasp and attain in the coming weeks. I also made a point again in that panel where I said, “besides EverQuest Next, can you name another which is going to be the next triple-A MMOG?”. I certainly think there are going to be fewer and fewer of those because when World of Warcraft came out, people thought, "there has got to be a way for us to make that kind of money!", but the problem was that they didn’t make a deep enough game to maintain what World of Warcraft had. What we’re hoping to do and we’re not looking to steal from World of Warcraft or anything like that, we’re just trying to make a solid MMOG for players that really want a deep, rich MMOG experience with lots of end game content - lots of fun leveling content - and various communities within the genre (housing and dungeons) to ensure we’ve got something solid for them. I think what we’re putting out is a fully featured MMOG.

Ten Ton Hammer: Its always frustrated me when people claim the subscription model is dead when World of Warcraft is still housing so many players who are more than happy to pay $15 a month. You’ve obviously mixed it up a little bit with C.R.E.D.D to balance out free to play versus subscription…  

Frost: I think we’re probably the most fair subscription that’s out on the market right now. With the C.R.E.D.D system it allows you to purchase a subscription with in game money. It means you could be playing for free once you’ve bought the box. Especially with the fact that the first month is free, that means within that time you could earn enough to buy some C.R.E.D.D. I don’t think that the subscription model is dead if you look at things like Final Fantasy XIV and we’ll see what happens with Elder Scrolls Online. I hope they do well and a lot of people say that they’re our competition or if we’re worried about them but really it comes down to the fact I want them to do well because it means more MMOG’s will be developed if they do well. I certainly hope they do well because they’re subscription.

I’d like to think that because there’s been this resurgence in subscriptions that it’s in response to the free to play rush. I think there are some great free to play MMOG’s - DDO did a great job of coming out and saying, “we’re going to do this model!”. I think they were revolutionary in thinking of that idea. It’s the same with Lord of the Rings Online and a bunch of other MMOG’s that have gone that route. But I also think it isn’t for everybody. Certainly when we made the game our thought was: we’re a triple-A product. It’s like HBO - people don’t seem to bat an eye when they want to get quality content from HBO. It is more a month and it is something that people are used to and when you get Game of Thrones it’s well worth it. What we’re trying to make is something that people play and think, “damn, this is a good game”. With our monthly content drops where we’re going to put in dungeons, PvP battlegrounds, raids and PvE zones. I think people will find month after month we’ve a lot of content coming online. It’s well worth it.

Ten Ton Hammer: From WildStar’s conception to now you’ve been caught up in the landscape shift of subscription being seen as the “norm” followed by “free to play” taking up that mantle. I’ve heard many people say “if it was free to play I’d play it”. Looking back, do you think Carbine would have chosen a different payment path?

Frost: There’s never going to be a payment model where everyone is going to be happy. period. The way that we picked our side was the most fair when it came to subscription. You can effectively play for free once you’ve bought the box but that’s on you to earn that money and decide, “well, I’ll put a lot of time into this and earn this myself”. There are certainly players out there willing and capable of doing this, so for those people who’ve asked about us about  going free to play, I’m not really concerned about it. We have lots of people that are willing to play subscriptions and check us out. We have a quality product on our hands and ultimately we need to pay our bills. We’ve 270-odd people in our building and this isn’t a cash grab for us by trying to screw over consumers. Videogames are very expensive to make and MMOG’s are the most risky and expensive so we need to make sure we’re consistently bringing in funds to ensure that we’ve people continuing to make the content.

Ten Ton Hammer: Coming back to competition, Guild Wars 2 has defined itself by the Living World model of releasing content every few weeks. Without such a quick release model, do you think there’s enough to hold the attention of modern players?

Frost: When I look at games such as World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV, they seem to be doing pretty well. I think we are up there alongside these triple-AAA MMOG’s and I think we’ve created something that people seem to be reacting quite positively to. People are willing to pay that subscription fee but there’s always going to be vocal players that say it’s a terrible idea to not go free to play. We’re going to make something and if at some point we go free to play, hurray you’ve won - you get to go free to play. But right now we’re trying out this model and we think it’s pretty damn good and also worth it.

I’m not too concerned about that other competition because if anything, I think we’ve seen this resurgence because players are over the fact they’ve got to go through these paywall's to enjoy their experience. You’ll notice we aren’t launching with a cash shop and every single month we’ll be providing new content with your subscription. We’re trying to retain people and putting in content that has elder game potential and things to do for a long period of time. Really, it’s on us anyway because if we put something in that people don’t want to play, well, we’re going to lose their subscription because they’ll feel like they’ve conquered it and can move on. I think the stuff we’re developing is perfect for those 1%ers that want to do stuff and even for the casual gamers we have elder game content for them to.     

Ten Ton Hammer: When WildStar lands in our hands as a “finished” product, what do you think will be its weakest point?

Frost: There are certainly things we could go back and change or look at differently. I don’t know whether there’s anything that is horrendous about what we’re doing. We’re releasing the game when we wanted to release the game. NCSoft didn’t force a gun down our throat and say, “you’re releasing a game at this point in time.” We just basically said that we’ll release it when it’s ready. I think we’re in a good enough spot and I don’t think there’s anything that I’m hardcore against or regret in any way. The reason I say that is because we’ve been listening pretty well to what people have had to say about things we’re adding. Body types this late into the game was not an easy feat, the UI 2.0 before launching was something we have taken seriously. We’re still working on getting those things optimised. Key for us right now is optimisation and future content and that’s what we’re currently working on at Carbine Studios. We’ll continue to do that and I think people notice that patch after patch things get better.

We'd like to thank Stephan for taking the time out to chat to us during a jam-packed community event.

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News Round Up, November 24

By Patsy Anderson -
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In today's round up we look at DDoS attacks against SWTOR, bans and exploits in ArcheAge, Skyforge's latest class reveal, Goat MMO Simulator confessions, and World of Warcraft's Tier 17 raid set sneak peaks.


STAR WARS: The Old Republic

In this week's “someone's throwing a temper tantrum...again,” now SWTOR is the target of DDoS attacks. I need a /yawn emote in real life. I'm seriously bored of reading about DDoS attacks by now. Just because you're not getting what you want doesn't mean you should be ruining things for other people. Grow up and work for what you want; don't expect anything to be handed to you. It always sucks having your say ruined because some jackass decided to take their bad day out on everyone else. I'm wondering who will throw one next and what game we'll see targeted next week, because it's likely to happen. It seems like there's been a weekly attack aimed at a different game for the past two months now or so. People need a better way of getting out their aggression, dealing with anger, and learning they aren't entitled to everything they way. Maybe take up kick boxing or a martial art? All that aggression can be aimed somewhere else and all that exercise will even help with depression. Plus, Win-win all around!

ArcheAge

It seems there is a new APEX exploit. Trion has been throwing a variety of trial fixes to see what works in the past 24 hours. Initially, anyone suspected of cheating were given 24 hour temporary bans, but since we can't have nice things, this was changed quickly. Pro-tip: if you are cheating, maybe don't go around bragging about how your ban is only temporary? Trion has since permabanned people who they have found exploiting. While information on the actual exploit is out there, I'll save it for the truly curious to find out for themselves. I'm only here to talk about the issue, not tell people how to do it. Not that it matters anyway, since APEX services are temporarily unavailable, which is another thing Trion is trying out to see how they can deal with this. Maybe all of these new bans will mean we'll see a return to DDoS attacks on Trion servers. Everything's cyclical, right?

Skyforge

In case you don't end up scrolling all the way down to our videos section, I'll just quickly point you over to the new Berserker video for Skyforge that I added today. The Berserker is the latest class reveal for Allods' upcoming MMOG that has a lot of interesting systems going for it. The Berserker is pretty interesting as well, since its ultimate is a Gladiator form that engulfs the Berserker in fire, letting the class be completely fueled by rage. I'm thinking that since World of Warcraft launched garrisons before Skyforge is in the hands of players means they'll get all of the credit for micro-managing followers, but I'm not sure who came up with it first. I'm pretty stoked about the system in Skyforge and can't wait to check out how it works first hand. You'll get to recruit followers, turn some into Adepts (the ones who perform missions in the name of you, a god), they'll build you sweet temples and statues, and much more. It sounds totally badass and if it's as cool as garrisons (I think it might be cooler, but then again, I've been writing about the Skyforge Adept system longer), it'll be amazing.

Goat MMO Simulator

Is a picture of a goat an actual goat or just another simulation of a goat?

So, this isn't news here. It's just some fluff. I mean, I got all angry pants earlier on. Well, more agitated at the same boring shit that people pull when they're not having their way or the same boring shit they pull because they don't want to work to earn things. Let's have some fun. Over in the Goat Simulator subreddit, /u/Esthreel submitted a TIFU post about getting trolled hard by Coffee Stain. I feel ya, bro/broette. We've all been there and Coffee Stain is A+ with their trolling. Esthreel thought the chat was real and even tried to help out some fellow “players” by responding in chat. Only later on was it discovered that the people at Coffee Stain are nothing short of a collection of geniuses. Well done, Coffee Stain. That's my kind of troll.

World of Warcraft

Chances are, unless you're playing WoW, you're sick to death of WoW news. I'm going to try to throw more Warcraft stuff into news round ups rather than putting together solo news features for this MMOG mammoth, but there's no way I can stop writing about it all together. Sorry if you're one of those people who are sick of it, but I can't help myself. I'm full on into Warlords of Draenor currently. I'm now level 100 with my Druid, rocking a 613 item level, and have completed silver trials for both healing and tanking. Last night, I got to tank my first Heroic. Unfortunately, we got Everbloom (or, as I call it, Foreverbloom). It wasn't terrible; we only had to learn what was new. The trash is pretty much the same, but since there is so much of it, we didn't get to try the final boss, Yalnu. You know, can't stay up too late on a school night or Mom gets mad. That, or we're suffering on Monday because we gotta do this whole work thing. I'm sure Heroic Yalnu is super fun anyway. By fun, I mean, something akin to punching myself in the face with broken glass. I give it three months before it turns into a lolfaceroll fiesta. Anyway, we're new, we're learning and our gear is terrible.

Druid on left, Priest on right.

Today, Blizzard put up a sneak peak of the new raid armor, which will become available in the beginning of next month. This will give me something to look forward to as myself and my friends – real life or just guild – learn new things, die many painful deaths in awkward solidarity, and hop back on that exciting gear treadmill that is World of Warcraft's end game. Because I got 610 so late in the weekend, I haven't even experienced the fun and joy that is the return to Molten Core, featuring 1/3 of people who know what's up and 2/3 of people who don't know what's going on. Seriously, folks, it ain't new. If you don't know the fights (that's okay! Not all of us were there when MC was a thing to be done), read up on it. Blizz even tried to make people prepared by creating a guide themselves. Anyway, this isn't about Molten Core. It's about brand new ways of pain and misery. Since this pain and misery comes with all sorts of new, I'm pretty excited about dying more times than Jeeves can keep up with.

My opinion of this new armor? Well, I think it's okay. I haven't been a huge fan of tier sets in a really, really long time (I still have a set of Cenarian in the bank for my Druid and probably whatever for my Priest), but I'm okay with not liking things. Overall, it's too bubbly for me. The green Druid set isn't bad, but I'm not too into the other two sets. The Priest sets, however, are fully badass. ALL OF THEM. Paladins...sorry, you probably have the worst. I'm sad because I'm digging my boosted Paladin (DO YOU HEAR THAT JOHN?!?) I've been pretty underenthused about playing my Priest since 6.0.2 and the class changes, but I'm looking forward to getting her to 100 and subsequent alt nights. I know those days are very, very far down the road, but we could be hanging out in Draenor for two years (oh my goats guys it's a Pandaria joke okay...don't quote me on this, don't take it as gospel, etc), so I'm okay with the slow and steady. And goals. I like goals.

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Grumpy Gamer: Sometimes You Eat The Bear...

By Jeff Sproul -
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I like writing guides. I don't do it much these days, because I'm playing older games that already have oodles of guides written for them. When I get the chance to dive into new games these days, I don't end up playing them long enough to get that in-depth understanding, either because the games suck and I stop playing them, or because they're great fun but guides would be redundant.

Right now, I'm back to playing the Lord of the Rings Online. I've been away from LotRO for a while, which makes me sad, but there's a new race/class that got me all excited and eager to play again - the Beorning - which makes me happy. So I've been playing the hell out of the Beorning, and have been intending to put together a guide, but, well.... I've discovered a snag.

LotRO is incredibly "top-heavy." 

No, no... not that kind of "top heavy."

LotRO has been around for 7 years, and nearly everyone playing it is playing at or near level cap. There are likely plenty of people who have already speed-leveled their brand new Beornings to level 100, using store-bought XP boosters and accelerators, but I am not one of those people. Gunkybear the Beorning is currently level 32, with 68 very long levels to go. The snag I've hit, which directly impacts my ability to write a concise and helpful guide, is that because the population is top-heavy, apparently no one runs level 30-ish group content these days.

I see loads of players my level running around questing, killing the same mobs as me, beating me to resource nodes, turning in the same batch of quests, etc. But today I was in the group finder queue for about 4 or 5 hours waiting for something to pop up, and nothing did. And it's not just that no one uses the group finder. I also went fishing for groups in the World channel and got no bites.

This is problematic for guide-writing. I can't write about all the awesome ways Beornings work in groups if I can't run any group content. So until I get to that level where all the group-content players are at, I'll only have semi-educated guesses to go on. I'm guessing, for instance, that Gunkybear - who can queue up for any combat role - would do fine as a tank or DPS, but if I tried to run as the group's main healer, I'm guessing I would make some enemies. For now, though, running the Beorning is a solo affair.

I see this same sort of thing in any older game I've played. Dungeons & Dragons Online has a very involved, tight-knit community and plenty of players still, but if you roll a new toon and run around the starter zone, you'd never know it. DDO is even older than LotRO, and it seems that most of the people playing it have been playing it for a long time, and are all at or near level-cap.

I also saw this in Fallen Earth, which is 5 years old and doesn't have a huge population to begin with. The chat channels were a-buzz with players, but I seldom saw any of them in the newbie zones I was running around in. That seemed fitting enough, considering the post-apocalypse setting of the game, but if I had been looking to run any group content in that game, I would have been screwed.

Warlords of Draenor has sucked a lot of people back into World of Warcraft, but I reckon about 8.5 or 9 of those 10 million subscribers are only there for the new endgame content. And when they're done with it, they'll blow through like tumbleweeds into some other game, where they will fill the chat channels with stories about how much the game they are currently playing sux compared to WoW.

I didn't notice this nearly as much in Star Wars: The Old Republic when I was speed-leveling all those alts. While I wasn't interested in running any group content myself, I saw a lot of people looking for groups for heroics on the fly-over planets, and plenty of mid-level players looking for Flashpoint groups on fleet. This seems strange to me, because leveling in that game - even without the crazy boosted XP for class missions - is super-fast, and the level cap is still relatively low. Even when Shadow of Revan bumps it up from 55 to 60, that's still pretty tame compared to LotRO's triple-digit level cap. But SWTOR is not yet 3 years old, and its population isn't all packed at the top end of the level spectrum yet. Though the crazy XP boost is doing its damnedest to change that - the SWTOR population is experiencing some accelerated aging while the event is running.

So my incredibly in-depth Beorning guide won't be coming anytime soon. In the meantime, here's a video I made of some Beorning bear-on-bear violence, set to the song "Honey Bucket" by the Melvins. For obvious reasons. 

How does your game's mid-level group availability compare? Is your game top-heavy? Let us know in the comments!

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Skyforge Introduces Berserker Class

By Patsy Anderson -
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In its latest reveal, developer Allods shows off the Berserker class in Skyforge. The Berserker is a rage-based warrior, available to be unlocked later on in the game. While the rule for warriors in Aelion is that they should never lose control, a small fraction of them have learned to not only give into the rage, but to hone it to the best of their abilities. The result is the Berserker class: a melee expert who, instead of trying to sneak around and avoid the enemy, head into battle, sword at the ready, before thinking. As a bonus, Berserkers also get a ridiculously large saw-sword. Who doesn't want a ridiculously large saw-sword?

Berkserkers have a pretty neat mechanic, where they start off and are kind of these big, dumb, sort of weak meatheads. Then, they enter combat, and feed off their rage, becoming stronger with each attack, leaving you playing just a big meathead. An enraged Berserker can call forth Gladiator form, a fiery form that consumes the Berserker in even ragier rage to rage at everything around you. Not only do Berserkers have access to fire, more fire, and a fiery form, but they also have a good amount of enemy control through stuns, fear, and knock backs. They also have a giant leap that will put them right in the center of a fight. Oh, and while fighting, they can even do things like reflect damage and restore health. It's no wonder that Berserkers aren't accessible until later on in the game, given how much of an unstoppable force they seem to be. The best part about Gladiator mode (at least from watching the video) is where you can take your chainsaw sword thing and grind it into your enemies.

While Allods gives us a nice list of Berserker abilities, I'm not sure where in that list is the “leap onto enemy and grind enormous chainsaw sword thing into enemy's face” but it's in the video, and since it's on the internet, it must be true. Maybe I just like the gore, but I keep rewatching that part. It's pretty fun. It could also be that I've recently rekindled my love of tanking, so I think playing a Berserker could be plenty of fun. It definitely looks like my favorite revealed class so far. Berserkers have access to not just powerful attacks, but powerful combos, as well. Looking at the list of their attacks, it reminds me of learning to play Mortal Kombat in the early 90s. Instead of joystick and button combos, you'll call up a variety of left and right mouse button clicks to command your Berserker into using brute force to beat your enemies to submission.

Don't worry, though – it's not all Mortal Kombat style combos. Berserkers have access to a great deal of abilities without remembering how many lefts and rights are needed to get there. Tornado, Flash of Rage and Battle Frenzy are non-core Berserker abilities that can be utilized when necessary and ready. The last of these is the ultimate ability for Berserkers, Gladiator. As a Gladiator, however, Berserkers do not have access to core and non-core abilities. Gladiators have access to only one skill, a skill that works both as a powerful crushing blow or a leap that allows for covering ground on fleeing enemies. Whether as Berserker or Gladiator, the class is a force to be reckoned with, and one I'm sure that will be sought out by players and Gods all across Aelion.

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No One Expects the Dragon Age: Inquisition

By Reuben Waters -
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Lifetap Volume 1, Issue 34 – No One Expects the Dragon Age: Inquisition

In today’s hysteria-inducing episode of Lifetap, Sardu ponders elven hair tattoos, Team Rocket, and more based for the first installment of his Dragon Age: Inquisition impressions.


1000 Shades of Ugly smacks you in the face for the first few minutes spent in the character creator for Dragon Age: Inquisition. On the surface level it might appear as though BioWare has taken a page out of the Bethesda playbook by attempting to insure that most characters in the game will be butt ugly. Case in point: you can give female characters Adam’s apples, among other oddities.

Thankfully there’s nothing quite as extreme as the include of five o’clock shadows on female characters in Fallout 3, or the overall “beat in the face with a wet chicken” look that all characters in Oblivion have without extensive modding.

If you’re willing to spend some extra time drilling down into the details, you’ll discover that the character creation tools are the most flexible and detailed of any BioWare game to date. The four playable races – Human, Dalish Elf, Dwarf, and Qunari – each have distinctive bone structure and can be morphed to both extremes of the “realistic fantasy” scale of beauty.

I ultimately spent a solid chunk of time creating my first character – an elven mage with dreams of eventually practicing necromancy – and ended up with something I knew I could live with for what has become quite the epic journey for the third installment of the Dragon Age series.

As a final note on character creation, I’ll offer up the following Pro Tip for future and current game developers:

Allow gamers to view characters in proper environments prior to finalizing the character creation process. The moody close up shots in extreme lighting conditions may help you see how expertly you’ve shifted eyebrow placement, but inevitably evokes a sense of bait-and-switch once you see your character scampering around in the open game world with proper lighting.

This is a minor nitpick, but one that does tend to drive me bonkers since you see it occur far too often for my liking. In the case of my elven mage, I expected that the facial tattoo I selected would be somewhat subtle. What I ended up with instead looks more like some collage pranksters took to its face with a sharpie while passed out after a particularly rough weekend of binge drinking. Nothing that couldn't be corrected by a trip back through character creation, but I guess my point here is that players should never have to double back to fix things.

Final, final side note: why are the tattoos showing on top of my character’s hair and sideburns? Then again...

What kind of tattoo are you looking to have done today, Mr. Sardu?

I was thinking of getting some kick-ass lightning bolts done on my sideburns, thanks.”

Hell yeah! Ride the Lightning! Give me a sec and I’ll shave your burns and we can get started.

No man, I want that crap ON TOP OF my sideburns!

Wicked! Let’s do this!

Of course, now having said that, I’m totally going to see about getting it done. Or, you know, probably not.

Beyond character creation curiosities, I have nothing but positive things to say about my experiences in Dragon Age: Inquisition so far. While my reception of DA2 was somewhat lukewarm, BioWare has rebounded with one of the richest and most compelling RPG experiences in recent memory. They’ve certainly raised the bar on seamlessly integrating story, level design, and character progression all wrapped in a warm, fuzzy blanket of proper player choice.

The old BioWare formula had been getting somewhat predictable:

  1. Establish main antagonist by having them do bad person things, after which they pull a Team Rocket and blast off until the final confrontation 30-60 hours later
  2. Determine that you desperately have to get to Point B to stop Team Rocket
  3. Before you can get to Point B, you must first stop at Points X, Y, and Z in no particular order. Only then can you finally proceed to save the world and defeat Team Rocket.

That formula served as the backbone for many of BioWare’s earlier successes. It has also been highly influential in other RPGs, including the Witcher series, the Eye of the North expansion for Guild Wars, Alpha Protocol, and countless others.

Thankfully, Dragon Age: Inquisition scraps the bulk of that in favor of letting players pick and choose locations on the map in largely any order they desire. The heart of the formula does still lurk beneath the surface, but never devolves into feeling linear or as though you’re being not-so-subtly shoved in the direction of the bad guys at every fork in the road.

I’ll avoid any potential spoilers for now, but will continue my impressions of Dragon Age: Inquisition throughout the week. Before I go much further, I would like to state that I will be absolutely shocked if Dragon Age: Inquisition doesn’t end up at the top of many GOTY lists. I would absolutely recommend the purchase based on my time with the game so far, and consider it a one of the best entries into the fantasy RPG genre to date. Hair tattoos notwithstanding.

Be on the lookout for our Inquisition guides to begin hitting the mighty Ten Ton Hammer this week. In the meantime, if you have any questions about my experiences so far, drop a comment into the handy comment repository below – no postage necessary!

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Warlords of Draenor: Auchindoun Guide

By Byron Mudry -
0

Auchindoun is a chance to revisit the instance first shown to us in the Burning Crusade expansion.  With the Warlords of Draenor expansion it has been brought back as a level 94-99 leveling instance found in the zone of Talador.  Auchindoun is a holy place for the Draenei people where they bury their dead, however the Shadow Council has invaded it and seeks to plunder it for Gul’dan.

Being a leveling dungeon it is full of upgrades for players the first time they visit this dungeon.  The items found here are rare item level 570 items.  Once you have made your way to level 100, Auchindoun can be re-visited in either heroic or challenge modes for even better gear.

There are four different encounters in this dungeon, they are: Vigilant Kaathar, Soulbinder Kaathar, Azzakel, and Teron’gor.

Vigilant Kaathar

This encounter is a fairly straight forward fight with three main mechanics that you need to worry about in order to defeat it.  The first is called Hallowed Ground, which is an AOE ground effect that players must move out of before it activates and deals an even larger explosion AOE effect. 

The second of the mechanics is another AOE effect called Sanctified Strike that leaves a crack on the ground that causes holy damage to anyone that remains on it.  Simply move off of it quickly.

The last mechanic is the Consecrated Light ability that Kaathar with channel that deals heavy damage to everyone in the group.   The only way to avoid the damage from this ability is to move out of line of sight behind the Holy Shield that will also appear.  However it is important that everyone move at once behind the shield or it will cause issues.

Soulbinder Nyami

This fight is a single phase fight that has a lot of damage abilities going on that need to be interrupted, several AOE effects, and a lot of adds to deal with. Starting with the adds, players need to prioritize and deal with them quickly while also dealing with their abilities.  The adds have a few abilities that cause a lot of issues, but can be interrupted.  These are the Arbiter’s Hammer and the Magus’s Arcane Bolt abilities.  Any player that can stop these abilities from going off should do their best to do so.  Soulbinder Nyami also has an ability that can be stopped called Mind Spike, that deals heavy single target damage.

While there are a few AOE abilities in play in this fight, the main one is Soulbinder Nyami’s Soul Vessel ability.  It is a channeled AOE effect that fills much of the fight area, however unlike most AOE effects you are not supposed to escape it, instead to not suffer damage you need to get to the center of it.  This means all players need to head to the eye of the storm and then split up again once the ability has ended.

If you are able to keep the adds controlled and killed quickly, avoid most of the AOE damage, and focus on the boss in between killing adds, the fight is pretty simple.

Azzakel

The third fight in Auchindoun is against Azzakel and is an alternating two phase fight.  The first phase of the fight is against Azzakel and is all about dealing as much damage as you can to him.  In this phase he uses two main abilities called Fel Lash and Curtain of Flame.  Fel Lash will only hit the tank, but deals heavy damage, puts a debuff on that causes the tank to take even more damage for the next 6 seconds, and pushes the tank away.  The tank needs to make sure that they are lined up so that they are pushed back into a wall and not off the platform.

The other ability, Curtain of Flame, targets random players and deals heavy damage to that player for 9 seconds.  It also deals damage to anyone around the targeted player, so players should make sure they are spread out so that they do not also take the damage.

The second phase of the fight is all about adds.  Azzakel will become immune to damage during this phase and summon adds that need to be dealt with. There will Blazing Tricksters, Felguards, and Cackling Pyromaniacs.  The tank needs to pick up the Felguards as soon as they spawn, and once again make sure that you are faced so that you are not knocked back off the platform when they do their Fel Stomp.  DPS players need to deal with the Pyromaniacs as their first priority and make sure they interrupt their Felblast ability whenever they can.  While doing this avoid the Tricksters and their Fel Pools until the other two types of adds are dead.

Once the adds are defeated, the fight will revert to the first phase.  These two phases will alternate until you have defeated Azzakel.

Teron’gor

The final boss fight in Auchindoun is against the mighty demon Teron’gor.  The fight is basically a two phase fight where it starts our simple, and then once Teron’gor is lowered down to 75% health he will gain several new abilities. 

During the first part of the encounter Teron’gor has many basic warlock abilities including: Corruption, Drain Life, Rain of Fire, and Shadow Bolt.  During this first phase players need to avoid or interrupt the AOE Rain of Fire and Drain life abilities.  Players also need to dispel corruption when they can.

Once the second phase is reached players will need to adapt to a completely different set of abilities, however he can gain one of three different sets of abilities.  Players can tell which abilities he will gain based on his emote as the phase starts as follows:

  • Affliction – Teron’gor emotes “Elum… Lifetime of healing. Now, you shall fuel disease and decay!”  and he gains the following abilities: Agony, Curse of Exhaustion, Seed of Malevolence, and keeps Drain Life and Shadow Bolt.
  • Demonology – Teron’gor emotes “Iruun, you battled demons in life… In death your power will feed them!” and he gains the following abilities: Chaos Wave, Curse of Exhaustion, Demonic Leap, Doom, Touch of Chaos, and keeps Corruption.
  • Destruction – Teron’gor emotes “Joraa, paragon of order… I shall twist your soul to power destruction!” and he gains the following abilities: Chaos Bolt, Conflagrate, Immolate, and Incinerate, and keeps Rain of Fire.

How players need to deal with Teron’gor in the second phase of the fight depend on which set of abilities he gains. In all forms a lost of the fight has to deal with minimizing incoming damage from AOE effects, cleansing off DOT effects, and interrupting any time it is possible.

 

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World of Corgicraft is Here!

By Patsy Anderson -
0

Blizzard kicks off the World of Warcraft tenth year anniversary celebration in the cutest way possible: Corgi pets, but not before letting everyone know the game currently has over ten million subscribers once again.


So, while everyone's busy talking about how Blizzard is boasting that World of Warcraft currently has over ten million subscribers once again with Warlords of Draenor, let's talk about what's really important here: Corgis. Now, I'm not saying that Warlords of Draenor selling more units than most games will see in a lifetime is no big, because obviously it's a pretty damn big deal. Me stating right now that Warlords of Draenor is pretty much a completely new World of Warcraft won't be the first (or last) time I say it. It really is a new game, and I love garrisons so much that I'm sorry for anyone who doesn't have access to a level 90 character. The other day, while waiting for a conference call to start, I realized I had a little less than fifteen minutes to blow. Sure, I could sit there and play some ragey solitaire until my meeting, instead, I just did some garrison management and then logged out and hopped into my call. Games that give players the option to advance with very little playtime allotted will go a long way to keep the playerbase full. While others will disagree with me, I also like that Blizzard is kind of holding out on content. Raids won't be in game until the beginning of next month, giving us plenty of time to gear up for it. Flying won't be in until mid next month, which means we actually have to stop and smell the roses. I can't wait to swoop down on silver names everywhere, though!

This article isn't about how many units Warlords of Draenor has sold, though, but before we get to the Corgis, there is one more point to bring up about this ten million number. What does this mean for other games? Yes, it continues to legitimize MMOGs due to the sheer number. Hell, you could say this even legitimizes the subscription model (although next month will be more telling about that, when we see who sticks around past the free 30 days anyone getting into World of Warcraft with Warlords of Draenor got). However, what will this do for innovation and continually pushing the genre forward? Now that Blizzard is swimming in an absurdly large pool of cash once again, will every studio out there feel that they must continue to push out WoW clones? We're just now seeing some games in development that are trying new things (Skyforge and Trials of Ascension for example), not to mention the resurgence of new old school games. Companies that aren't afraid to try new things aren't really looking at World of Warcraft's numbers; they know they are creating niche games for a smaller playerbase, therefore measuring their successes on a different metric than “massive shitton of subscribers”.

Blah, blah, blah...numbers and things and boring stuff. Guys, all I care about are Corgis, so let's talk about Corgis, okay? Today, the ten year anniversary celebrations begin in World of Warcraft, which means, CORGIS FOR EVERYONE!! It's kind of like sitting in the audience at an Oprah show, but instead of you, you, and you getting cars, you get Corgis. It's far better, because Corgis. Who doesn't want a new friend? People who don't like fun, that's who. Starting today, you can log in, get some achievement, and most importantly, claim your super cute, loyal, and all-around awesome fiery Molten Corgi pet to love you forever and ever. I'm hoping for the fifteenth year anniversary, we'll get a Molten Goat. Make it so, Blizzard!

In addition to the best pet ever, Blizzard has a lot of activities for players to participate in for the celebration. If you're worried you won't have time to get to 100, gear up through heroics and get your minimum silver in trials, don't worry – the anniversary celebrations will continue through “early 2015” which should give you plenty of time to do business while partying. It's kind of like Blizzard now has a sweet mullet, where it's business in front and party in the back, but far more party and a sweet ass Corgi.

Speaking of level 100 and item level requirements, Molten Core is available all over again for maximum level players. This classic 40-man raid is now open and available for level 100s with an item level of 615, and beating it will give you a shiny new Core Hound mount. I'm level 98 sitting at around 575ish ilvl, so I don't know what gives me a fit of nervous laughter more, the item level requirement or the 40 people. I think it's probably the 40 people. I love my guild and we raid well together, but I don't think we even have 40 people total in it. Oh, and you'll also get a free hat for beating Ragnaros, too. Blizzard says it will be “a Warlords of Draenor Raid Finder–quality helm” which I guess is good. The mount sounds pretty cool, though. Just need to find about 25 more people to hang out with when I get two more levels.

If PvP is more your jam, don't worry. Blizz didn't leave you out of this party. A new deathmatch style battleground is available that will let us reminisce on the days of World of Warcraft's early days, reliving the great battle of Tarren Mill versus Southshore. Two brackets are available, one for players levels 90-99 and another for level 100 players. Because it's a battleground, you can't just call in favors to have your lowbie alt rescued. No, you'll have to work as a team to complete goals and net a win. Winning will also get you a sweet title: “A win will gain you a shiny new title: either Tarren Mill Terror for the Alliance or Southshore Slayer for the Horde.” Not as sweet as a Corgi, but then again, few things are. Good thing PvP players can get that Corgi, too!

Okay, so maybe you're not as excited about Corgis as I am. Plenty of things are happening in World of Warcraft (small example, a recent hotfix includes a change to group loot where Personal Loot is now an option, in addition to the old need/greed system). Do any of these changes get you excited? Are you enjoying Warlords of Draenor? Should I take Boomjack's advice and use my boost on a Paladin? I'm so tempted to use it on a Monk, but that's because I loved my Monk in both EverQuest and EverQuest II. I might be insane. Whether or not I actually am insane, you should totally say something in the comments. I'll MS Paint your WoW character if you add in a picture.


Addendum: Here are some screenshots of Vendolyn and her new friend. Because this is Blizzard, and Blizzard loves poop jokes, the Molten Corgi will rub its butt on the ground, leaving a fiery trail, and then sniff what it left behind. It's gross, but the kid in me giggles non stop.






For your Molten Corgi, all you have to do is log in and check your mail!


Addendum #2: Even lootcraftier. So, it seems Blizzard is changing how loot works, once again for World of Warcraft, in an upcoming hotfix. While you can certainly read this blue post by Rygarius, here's the gist: premades you queue up with that are just you and your friends, you have options to use personal loot or need/greed. Randoms you queue through the raid/group finder will be defaulted to personal loot. In order to make sure that everyone gets something, Blizzard now ensures that welfare epics loot is dropped by the final boss of whatever you're doing.

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Personal Loot vs Need Before Greed

By John Hoskin -
0

Welcome to this 21st day of November, 2014.   I’m John “Boomjack” Hoskin and this is Here Comes The Boom episode #35.

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Short and sweet today!

Personal loot in Warlords of Draenor seemed like a great idea.  I personally loved it!  BUT…Blizzard has removed it and gone back to the “Need Before Greed” system or as I affectionately refer to it the “Everyone Needs Everything So They Can Sell It” system.

For those that have no idea what I’m talking about.

Rather than having players roll dice to see who wins loot dropped by a boss each player under the Personal Loot system had an independent chance to win an item.   You didn’t compete directly against other players for loot.  You also received something appropriate to your spec (or the spec that you had chosen via your portrait in the UI)

Here is what we have gone back to…

Case in point. 

Boss dies, two items drop, Player A “ Needs” on both and then tells the group he doesn’t need them, but “26 gold is 26 gold man!”

My best guess is that players were gearing up too quickly under the Personal Loot system.   If that is the case then why not just lower the chance to win an item?

Need before Greed does nothing more than cause frustration and anger in the community.  

Seriously Blizzard, reconsider this change.

Which system do you prefer WoW players?

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Now on to your regular schedule nonsense…

Vin Diesel Fact:  Vin Diesel can put a broken pane of glass back together.

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