WildStar Giveaway!

By Lewis Burnell -

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 -

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 -

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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H1Z1 12/18 Livestream Recap

By Skyla Grimes -

In the first livestream since the H1Z1 early access date was announced, Adam Clegg and Jimmy Whisenhunt show off some all new features and gameplay changes (also, playerunknown makes a cameo). Since my last time playing H1Z1 at PAX Prime earlier this year, the game not only looks completely different, but is far more fleshed out than I expected it to be for Early Access. Here is all of the important stuff from the 2-hour gameplay livestream, in case you missed it!

Livestream Hosts

  • Jimmy Whisenhunt  - Senior Game Designer (@jimmywhis)
  • Adam Clegg - World Designer (@arclegger)

H1Z1 Livestream Highlights - December 18, 2014

New Features
  • Since the last time we saw the game played live, character and zombie animations have been changed.
  • All new trees and general flora (making dense forests possible).
  • Your characters "eyes" will now adjust to changes in lighting.
  • Items now have weight, and the weight on a item determines how much room it takes up in your inventory.
  • There are physical maps in game at certain waypoints (gas stations, ranger stations, etc).
  • How big is the map? The map is 64 square km at the moment, but it will grow to be much larger.
  • Will there be penalties for KOS behavior? There are not plans to directly discourage KOS. However, making sound does bring zombies so if you're shooting a lot, you'll make it dangerous for yourself.
  • Will zombies drop food and bullets? Yes, they may drop loot. Most of the time you'll just find cloth though.
  • Is there bullet drop? Yes. Right now it is tuned to realistic values based on the weapon.
  • How big are zombie hordes? "Huge." They also roam.
  • How does loot respawning work? Loot spawn points are "smart" and able to check their loot table and items in the area to determine what to spawn and when, helping keep some items rare.
  • Will we be able to craft ammo? Depending on the ammo, "we'll see". Can craft arrows right now, and they may implement different arrowhead types.
  • Is there anything to help prevent stream sniping? They have some ideas to help out with this (like a whitelist server for streamers), but no not really right now. "Snipers gunna snipe."
  • Will you allow the development of player mods? There will not be player mods like seen in other games, but Player Studio will be in game.
General Information
  • Early Access will definitely have bugs. The main goal is to make sure there is a base of gameplay (crafting, vehicles, etc), and they will add and interate on content after they get more feedback from the players.
  • There will be about 50 vehicles spawned on a map at once, but they won't all be working when players find them. Vehicles will require a battery and spark plugs to be functional. They also have slots for a motor, boost, headlights, and fuel.
  • Players cannot yet kill someone with a falling tree, but it is on the list.
  • A PvE ruleset server is in the plans.
  • Player-built bases do have "health" and they will degrade over time. They are destructable by other players.
  • John Smedley is not a bitch.

As we get closer to Early Access, are you excited by the new content we're seeing for H1Z1? Do you think the hype train is back? Let us know in the comments below!

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Having My Cake And Eating It Too

By Alexander Wall -

What can I say, I have a knack for seeing and appreciating complexity. At the same time, the gift often feels a lot like a curse. There are very few occasions when lots of complexity is a good thing. Being an engineer, or architect, for just a couple examples. However, if my time in the Marines taught me anything, it's how badly I dislike monotonous work and therefore: any higher education that involves math or science.

It's not that I don't like math and science, I love them. I just don't like being required to do the same routine and time-sapping problems that you get with "required" homework. Just give me the book, teach me the tricky concepts that a person might struggle with on their own and give then me a test. I don't need no stinkin' homework!

Complexity is King in AN M.M.O.

Complexity is the greatness of the MMO genre. Complexity is what makes these artificial places feel realistic, and therefore: believable. All the different systems and sub-systems and features that go into these digital worlds are what make up the substance of the game. Going back to our cake analogy - they're the bread, and the polish is the icing (and hopfully that whipped-cream kind of icing).

Crafting, exploration, social systems, combat (PvP & PvE), story, housing, etc. They all make up the substance of the MMO that we really come to eat. Sure, the polish helps it all go down and adds to the addiction, but really we eat it because we're hungry and because we're craving the substance. We're going to keep eating too, especially if the polish is good. We need that in MMOs if they're going to survive as long-term, persistent places where we can embark on lengthy endeavors that stretch far beyond the shorter scope of most other games in the industry.

All that I've stated above? Good complexity.

Now... what you're about to read next is... bad complexity. Very bad complexity.

Sometimes developers totally go overboard - or worse, they don't even know what kind of product they're pitching and they just keep ramming crap into it. Why? Because it's an MMO right? All the other MMOs are doing it. So why not us? Again I say... bad, bad complexity. In life, never do something because other people are doing it. Never. Never, ever... because ninety percent of the time you're just going to look like a jackass. The other 10% of the time, you're eating cake, cause who doesn't eat cake when everyone else is? Even if you're already full, you know you're going to be getting down on that cake!

Developers in the MMO side of the gaming industry, have a tendency to try and do things that other games are already doing. The caveat is that they're trying to do them "better". Honestly, with a decade and a half of tweaking and adding to the same damn model we've known since the original EverQuest, there isn't much "better" left. After all, who thinks a fifteen year old cake still sounds delicious? Not me. I want something fresh. I want something tasty. Sure, it can be familiar, but it needs to be new - and original. Don't cut up chunks of the old cake and use them as filler.

Make a new freaking cake!

Kind of a Love / Hate Thing

If you've been reading this column, then you're probably aware of my return to World of Warcraft after nearly a decade away. While I am playing the game and having some fun - it has a lot more to do with a lack of other options than it does WoW actually being that good. Really, I'm feverishly awaiting the Wednesday update for Landmark, which although raw and unfinished, is kind of like licking the cake batter off of the spoon. No it's not cake yet. No it isn't going to fill me up; but it sure as hell is tasty! And already it's making me want the finished cake even more.

WoW has some issues right now - and some big ones. Despite all the slimming down and streamlining - my character has still got skills pouring out of his ears that I still haven't been able to reign in. The sheer amount of abilities and cooldowns is a bit overwhelming, especially when you consider the PvP side of combat - which is of course the best kind of combat.

Perhaps it my long stint in the MOBA genre that has taught me to hate classic MMO combat. The tab-targeting I don't hate, but not having a convenient and nearby key for all the skills I might need in the heat of combat is very bad. What can I say, I'm a very competitive guy - and my tighter playing schedule hasn't tempered my need to win and to be the very best at all times. I hate that I can't hit the exact ability I want to hit, right when I need it.

I hate it with a vengeance.

Finding the Proper Balance

We're not going to escape complexity. In fact, MMOs demand complexity. However, the delivery still has plenty of room for improvement. Having 50 or even 100's of different abilities is not necessarily the problem - all those things add tons of delicious depth to the combat system. Having access (or even worse, requiring access) to all those abilities on the drop of a dime in the thick of intense combat...?

Very much a problem.

Instead of looking at my abilities as a simple weapon or set of weapons I can unleash on my opponents, instead I'm looking at a 50-piece Swiss Army knife of choices, each with its own specific uses and circumstances. In my last edition of the Gravity Well I talked about how the evolution of technology is changing the MMO genre, and a big part of that change is instant-access. Not having instant access to a specific ability when I need it is both frustrating and painful, and it takes away from all the good things WoW combat has going for it.

It's why I believe WoW had to implement the "Proving Grounds" system for high-end dungeons and raid content. It's separating the egg-yolks from the egg-whites, so to speak. People who just don't have the knack (and by knack I mean keyboard setup, macros, and key-memorization) to operate everything as flawlessly as is sometimes necessary, are going to hurt the experience of others at that level. That's a lot of wasted time investment, which is why they made that change. The fact that the system needs additional prerequisite support is a clear indicator that the system needs a total overhaul to truly be intuitive and streamlined.

As high as I am on how great WoW looks, and how accessible it is at the entry level - the complexity of late-game and competitive play is certainly not for everyone. That's why raiding is a relatively niche pursuit despite there being an awfully large group of people that enjoy competing in intense combat (look at the RTS and MOBA crowds as proof of that). The "shinies" play a big role too, everyone wants the uber loot - even if they can't quite play up to par (another reason WoW has implemented systems to make raiding more accessible, or at least easier versions of it).

The Bottom Line

No matter how you slice it, the fact remains that we need complexity in MMOs, but much more than that - the complexity needs to be served in a simple and intuitive way that doesn't bog down the game. Old school Dungeons and Dragons players feel the same way about all the modern rule-sets in the tabletop realm as well. Has D&D added a lot of great content to their table-top RPG? Yes. Have they done so at the cost of creating an overwhelming mass of rules that has now actually become a barrier to entry for new players? Sadly, yes again.

I see the same thing happening to WoW and to EverQuest, and to just about every other MMO that's been good enough to survive Father-Time thus far. They won't survive forever. Eventually they'll reach a point where all the complexity becomes too big a barrier for entry (or for progression, an equally damning factor for any MMO) and when their current player base gets tired of the same old taste. I recently got to play again in a static EverQuest group with a few friends who had never before played the game. The UI and the sheer amount of complexity to the game was incredibly intimidating for them and needless to say, we only made it about 6 weeks before the group decided to move on.

World of Warcraft looks appetizing, as it is much more polished than some of the earlier surviving MMOs - but it too is growing stale. It just doesn't taste as delicious anymore. It still looks nice, as they've done a great job adding preservatives and slapping on fresh icing... but it doesn't make my mouth water to think about. No MMOs currently on the market today really do. I'm just eating it because I want dessert and the bakery hasn't made anything fresh for a while.

I'm just in a holding pattern, half-heartedly sucking down the old delicacies like the MMO gaming glutton I am; hoping one of the bakers finally brings out a fresh dessert. Ideally it would be a new lip-licking recipe that I've never even tried before. Landmark and EverQuest Next are showing signs of greatness, which is why I'm following them so closely... but they're not quite ready yet. I've tasted the batter, and it is promising; but the reality is that they're still in the oven. They've got all my favorite ingredients... but you really don't know what it's going to be like until you taste the finished product.

If you've made it this far, than you must be a glutton for my thoughts... or maybe you just really like cake! (I wonder if the image below is helping satisfy that need, or just cruel and unusual punishment?) Let me know what you think in the comment section below, whether it's about the article or maybe about your favorite real-life dessert!

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Guild Wars 2: An Elite Skill Discussion

By Lewis Burnell -

Elite skills have played a large part in games for a long time. Whether it’s the Limit Breaks in Final Fantasy or the powerful skills available in SMITE, part of their beauty is the fact that they have a tactical use but also that when they do become available, they have always turned the tide of battle in your favour. It doesn’t mean that they’re an instant “I WIN!” button, but there’s no doubting their power. Before playing Ullr in SMITE I used to play Anubis. He’s a ranged class that has few outs and requires precise positioning. His Elite skill is called Death Gaze and while it might appear piddly, if you pair it with Grasping Hands and Mummify you were almost guaranteed to wipe out most of what was in front of you.

It’s over the last few days, then, that I’ve been thinking about the implementation of Elite skills in Guild Wars 2 and as someone who spent a great deal of time in Guild Wars, I’m still incredibly dissatisfied with what’s on offer here. When you were constructing your build in Guild Wars you’d tend to pick your Elite skill first and then revolve the rest of your skills around it. In contrast, Guild Wars 2’s Elite skill is not only an after thought on many builds but largely irrelevant. With the exception of a couple that I’ll discuss later most classes happily survive without and rarely miss their Elite even when it’s on cooldown.

The reality when it came to the game launching was that the vast majority of Elite skills are poor, largely ignorable and do little to change the way in which players or enemies react to them

When Elite skills were first announced for Guild Wars 2, Isiah Cartwright was quoted as saying Elite skills offer an “ace-up-your-sleeve-type of play” with the core element being to create a “moment of power.” John Peters stated that  “Every single elite is either a big shapeshift, or summoning some crazy weapon, or summon a bundle. There are no elites that don’t change how you play in a very drastic way.” John Peters has also gone on to say that “In PvP, it creates a mind duel. Who is going to throw it first? Whoever throws it first, loses.”

The reality when it came to the game launching was that the vast majority of Elite skills are poor, largely ignorable and do little to change the way in which players or enemies react to them. Each class has 3 Elite skills and I would state that two thirds of those could be removed and no one would even bat an eyelid. Even the Elite skills which are “good” are still incredibly dull and are fire and forget spells that most players can too easily avoid.

If we take the Necromancer as an example, its three Elite skills are:

  • Flesh Golem (Summon a flesh golem to attack foes with crippling claws.)
  • Plague (Become a virulent cloud and inflict multiple conditions on foes you touch)
  • Lich Form (Assume the form of a lich for a brief time.)

Of these three, the only powerful Elite is the Lich Form and that’s primarily because of the fact its auto attack (Deathly Claws) hits like a truck if you’re using Berserker gear. If you’re hit several times with this, regardless of class, it’s highly likely you’re going to die. The fact you turn into a giant Lich that looks awesome also solidifies that yes, this is an Elite skill. The problem however is that you’re slow, the size of a house and a single Corrupt Boon reduces you to a useless mess. Using Lich Form is often suicide and that, for an Elite skill, is bizarre.

Sadly, the remaining two aren’t much better. Flesh Golem should be removed from the game simply because its damage is pitiful, it dies to any amount of area effect and your control over it is limited to only asking it Charge. I also think for a hulking mass of bones and corruption it looks pretty poor. If you’re fortunate enough to ever see it Charge rather than get stuck on a stray Ant, its single Knockdown is negligible considering the cooldown. As for Plague Form, I was expecting a huge violent cloud of toxins. Instead we’re given a skill that has almost no animation besides the tiny buzz of Locusts and one that causes so little damage through Conditions I wouldn’t ever consider it an offensive Elite. What it is used for is to safe stomp and to Blind opposing players on a Capture Point: hardly worth the large cooldown.

I’m not suggesting every single Elite in the game is worthless because some are actually quite strong. Engineer Supply Crate, Renewed Focus, Entangle and Battle Standard spring to mind. The problem with even these is the fact that their impact is still so small. Having your Virtues recharged, or resurrecting downed players when using a Banner is hardly awe inspiring. Even the Moa has been tweaked and changed to the point where its Flee is so strong it’s actually hard to die when turned into the feathery bird. Unless facing an incredibly coordinated strike, you can simply retreat to safety before quickly returning unharmed. It might mean your Control Point is decapped but you’ve not given the opposition a free 5 points and nor are your team down to 4 men.

What I’d like to see is for every single Elite skill to be revisited and boosted in power. Many wouldn’t require a great deal of work and with only a few tweaks would become something to fear. I think that’s incredibly important, especially when in their current form I’d rather take a standard skill over many of the available Elites. To go into combat against another person and actually be worried about whether or not they have their Elite skill ready is something I sorely miss. The only class that I ever feel this from is the Engineer and its dreaded Supply Crate. To have that dropped on your head genuinely can turn the tide in the favour of the Engineer and that’s a good thing. In contrast I never face an Elementalist and think “Oh lord, I wonder if he’s got Tornado or Glyph of Elementals equipped.”

As one example of an Elite change and to use Plague Form, I see no reason why it has 3 separate skills to drip feed pitiful amounts of Conditions onto foes. What it should do is cast all conditions onto players you touch for its entire duration and it should tick rapidly. Players should want to avoid the cloud at all costs and do everything they can to keep it away from others. When you see a Necromancer running towards a Capture Point your instant reaction should be to ensure that if he does have Plague Form that it’s impact is minimized as quickly as possible.  

Having now had my say on Elite skills and as is becoming customary with these articles, I’m giving away 1600 Gems for your thoughts. Just let me know in the comments below what you think of Guild Wars 2’s Elite skills and if you could change one, how you would do it. The winner will receive 1600 Gems and the Closing date is 31st December. Winners will be notified several days later via Disqus.


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Highmaul LFR - The Arcane Sanctum

By Byron Mudry -

This guide covers the second wing of the Highmaul raid instance, The Arcane Sanctum.

Once again this wing is fairly easy for players to complete since it is a wing in the very first Warlords of Draenor expansion raid.  Since this wing of the raid is only three bosses it is also fairly fast to complete making it perfect for those of us on tight timeframes at night for gaming.

The only additional requirement beyond those needed to get into the first wing of Highmaul is to have actually completed the first wing, The Walled City, before being able to queue for this wing in LFR version.

This second wing houses three very different bosses which are: Tectus, Twin Ogron, and Ko’ragh.


The Tectus encounter has a lot of movement requirements so players better be quick at reacting or you will have issues. Tectus is also a fight that requires heavy add management. The abilities that Tectus use include:

  • Crystalline Barrage
  • Earthen Pillar
  • The Living Mountain
  • Tectonic Upheaval
  • Fracture

The fight starts with players needing to deal with Tectus and a series of adds that are summoned.

The adds that are summoned are Berserker and Earthwarpers. The berserker can be tanked and killed overtime, however the earthwarper must be killed quickly.  The earthwarper casts a spell called Gift of Earth that will travel towards Tectus.  If it hits the boss he will gain a buff of Accretion that grants him 5% additional damage and heals him for roughly 5%.

While dealing with adds you must also avoid the Crystalline Barrage and Earthen Pillar mechanics. Tectus will target random players with Crystaline Barrage which leaves an AOE cloud in place once it hits them.  The player does get some warning though and needs to get away from everyone else and ensure that the AOE is left in a safe area.  At 25 energy Tectus will create an Earthen Pillar which stays in place and blocks line of sight.

Tectus is protected from death while under the effects of the Living Mountain buff, which is almost the whole fight.  You can only kill Tectus while he is not protected by the buff, which only happens when he reaches 100 energy and is using his raid wide AOE ability called Techtonic Upheaval.

As if all of that was not enough to deal with, once you actually kill Tectus, he splits into two Shards of Tectus and the fight continues.  Each of the Shards retains all of the original abilities but just has less health.  The shards also gain a buff for being close to each other, and therefore need to be tanked apart from each other.  You must follow the same process to kill each of these Shards as you did the original Tectus, only being able to kill them during a Techtonic Upheaval.

Even after all that, you are still not done, each Shard of Tectus will split into four Motes of Tectus once they are killed.  These again keep all of the abilities, other than the Living Mountain buff, which means they can be killed at any time.  Since there will be at least 4 of these active though, damage becomes insane at this stage and players must do everything they can to survive.

The ideal kill order is to deal with one Shard of Tectus at a time all the way through to death.  This means the complete kill order will be:

Tectus – Shard #1 – Motes 1 to 4 – Shard #2 – Motes 5 to 8

The fight gets harder and harder as it goes on due to both the incoming damage from a growing number of bosses, as well the reduced amount of space in the room due to the Crystalline Barrage AOE effects and the Earthen Pillars.  By the end you are just trying to escape the insanity!  Overall it is a great encounter!


The second boss encounter is against two bosses at once, the two Ogrons Pol and Phemos. Each of the bosses have separate abilities that need to be managed.

Pol’s abilities:

  • Shield Bash
  • Shield Charge
  • Interupting Shout
  • Pulverize

Phemos’s abilities:

  • Double Slash
  • Whirlwind
  • Enfeebling Roar
  • Quake

Pol will use a shield bash against the tank at normal intervals and then his special abilities at set energy values.  At 33 energy Pol will use Shield Charge which charges at a random player and deals damage and places a DOT on that player and everyone in the path to that player.

At 66 energy Pol will use Interrupting Shout, which is an AOE damage and interrupt ability. It will also silence anyone that is casting when it ends for 1 second so be careful and quit casting before it finishes.  Lastly at 100 energy Pol will use Pulverize which hits the ground three times.  The first hit deals damage to each player and anyone around them, the second makes 3 spikes fall from the ceiling dealing AOE damage to anyone below them, and the last causes a massive spike to fall in the center of the room dealing damage to everyone.

Phemos will use a double slash against the tank at normal intervals dealing heavy damage.  Then at 33 energy Phemos will start a Whirlwind which deals damage to anyone around him, but he keeps agro on the tank and can be dragged around to get him away from the group. Each hit also puts a stacking debuff on the tank that increases the damage that Pol’s shield bash deals, meaning that you will need one tank for each boss.

At 66 energy Phemos will use Enfeebling Roar which will apply a stacking debuff to anyone in the AOE that increases damage taken. The debuff is split by the number of players in range, so all players need to stack quickly so that the tank does not take the whole stack and be un-healable.  At 100 energy Phemos will use Quake, which throws both weapons on the ground causing a quake and then a blaze of fire from the weapons.  You must avoid the fire that comes from the weapons as it deals damage and places a DOT on anyone hit.

In addition to the above mechanics, each boss gains haste the further they are from the other, making them attack more often and gain energy faster. Then there is the main difficulty with this encounter, each boss starts at a different energy value and gains it at different rates. This means that abilities will happen at different rates and at different times, overlapping at different times.

The fight is all about keeping the bosses together as much as possible to slow their attacks, yet getting them away from each other when required, all while trying to avoid the overlapping abilities that cause the most harm.


The third and final boss in the wing is Ko’ragh who is found in the Chamber of Nullification.  The fight involves a main raid group and a sub group that each deal with different elements of the fight.  The main abilities that Ko’ragh uses in the fight are:

  • Nullification Barrier
  • Breaker’s Strength
  • Overflowing Energy Orbs
  • Volatile Anomalies

The fight starts with Ko’ragh being protected by a Nullification Barrier which absorbs a huge amount of magic damage before being depleted.  It does not however block physical damage at all.  While the barrier is active Ko’ragh will gain a stacking buff called Breaker’s Strength every 10 seconds boosting his damage output.  This buff does not go away until you have broken the barrier. 

Ko’ragh has several attacks during this phase.  The first of these abilities is placing a suppression field on a random player which deals damage to anyone in it and silencing them while in it.  He will also expel arcane, fire, frost, and shadow in a random order throughout the fight. 

Expel Magic: Arcane targets a tank and launches  explosions at them in quick succession for 10 seconds, which means that you need to switch tanks and run away from everyone quickly.  Expel Magic: Fire places an exploding debuff on all players that deals damage to each player and anyone within a short range, meaning you need to spread out quickly.  Expel Magic: Frost summons a frost orb that deals all players nearby, so everyone needs to move away.  Lastly Expel Magic: Shadow puts a healing debuff on all players in the raid which prevents them from receiving any heals until they receive enough to break through the debuff.

Once the Nullification Barrier has been broken, Ko’ragh will leap to the center of the room and summon a Rune of Nullification that charges up a new Nullification Barrier for him over time.  While the Rune of Nullification is up, one player (and up to five players in the looking for raid version of the raid) may also enter the rune and gain a protective barrier as well, however as their barrier is charging up they will take extremely heavy damage, needing a few healers on them to keep them alive.

While in the Rune of Nullification, Ko’ragh will summon Volatile Anomalies to attack the raid.  These adds explode when killed and need to be moved to the suppression field areas in the room or they will cause heavy raid wide damage.

Once Ko’ragh has charged a replacement shield he will start to summon Overflowing Energy Orbs to the fight.  These orbs will form above the battlefield and fall slowly down and then explode on contact with the ground dealing heavy raid wide damage.  The player(s) with their own protective barrier can stand under the orb as it hits the ground and absorb all of the damage and thereby stop it from hitting everyone else in the raid.  Anyone under an orb without a barrier will be instantly killed.  However there will be more orbs that come down that you can absorb with the barrier so at some point the raid will take damage.

These two phases repeat until you are able to defeat Ko’ragh or wipe. While the fight has relatively simple mechanics it is still extremely fun and challenging.








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Free-to-Play Games Should Require Identity Verification

By David Piner -

The biggest issue we currently have with free-to-play games isn't specifically the quality of the games, but the exploits. It's been the major inhibiter for a lot of F2P games, primarily ArcheAge, and it's time to just say we need to do something about it. That's why I believe we need to attach personally identifiable information to authenticate ourselves individually to create an account, thus one account per person living in the United States. 

Before you get up in arms about giving game developers information like that, just hold your horses, there are many various third-parties that operate for banks and the such that you already do this for and would gladly integrate into any MMO's. That's critical to understand first. Secondly, these third-parties are really good at leveraging the credit bureaus and Lexis Nexus et al to identify you with very little information given to them, usually the last four digits of your social security number and your address. 

So let's take that out of consideration for a second. Now, the big issue with ArcheAge is that "hackers" exploited the ability to generate free accounts to farm large amounts of Labor Points, exploited the land grab to snag up as much land as possible, and are constantly running thousands of bots to harvest trees. It got so bad that a lot of legitimate players were banned in the process, although, the ner'do'wells are among them in heavy groves trying to get their primary patron account unbanned "I have paid money and you have banned me, why?" yet many of these exploits obviously would require a singular patron account in order to operate the exploits. 

If each account for ArcheAge was tied to a specific social security number (again, we're talking third-party non-personally identifiable obfuscated way of doing this, not literally giving Trion your social security number), then it would be a lot harder for people to just generate accounts. This practice is already done - in South Korea. Not only is this practice already done, but yes you would in South Korea literally give Trion your social security number to make an account. 

In the old days, the comedy of it was that your SSN in Korea contained your gender, so you would be locked to male or female in games like Ragnarok Online based on your SSN. Anyway, this practice would make many of the F2P games much more enjoyable to play, because everyone's accounts would literally be sacred. Think of how little griefing and trolling would occur to the limits that a GM would get involved if you could only literally have one account to the game the rest of your life and if you got banned, you'd have to use someone else's. 

Sure a black market would appear, but like I said, third-party services require just a little bit of information, but also require you to answer questions and the such to verify your identity, like about your mortgage, your car, streets you've lived on, phone numbers you've had, etc. So generating SSN's wouldn't help much and in addition, yes a black market would appear, but anyone selling their account on the black market would have to understand the repercussions of never being able to make their own account again. 

Anyway - it's an idea to solve a growing problem of bots and "hackers" in Free-to-Play games. It's kind of extreme, but hey I'd rather give Experian information they already have about me for them to tell Trion or whoever that I'm me and enjoy a game versus playing in what I consider the wild west and having B E S T D E A L S A N Y W H E R E attempt to sell me gold and riches while seeing legions of characters teleporting around ravaging the game world. 

What are your thoughts? Would you be comfortable giving a third-party like Experian your information and having just one account for a free-to-play game or do you think that's taking it too far? Let me know in the comments below. 

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