Blog Archives

Guild Wars 2: Heart Of Thorns – Specializations In A Nutshell

ranger-druid-sepcilization

Well well. It seems this week’s Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns news is on Specializations! Game Designer Jon Peters drops the news in two posts (Part 1 and Part 2 here). So in a nutshell I’ll explain how specializations work and how will it be incorporated with the skill system we have now. I’ll also cover how we’ll be earning utilities and traits in the future!

Core & Elite Specializations

core-specilization-ele

Specializations will be separated into two variations. The first is the Core Specialization which is basically a newer version of the trait system we have in place now. With Core Specializations there are no more trait points but instead players will be able to choose 3 out of 5 profession trait, now specialization, lines. For example, for elementalist I can choose Water Magic, Fire Magic and Arcana as my 3 core specialization lines. This will in turn unlock everything in the line. That’s right: the adept, master and grandmaster tier traits along with the 3 minor traits will be unlocked for each line chosen. The trade off to this is that there will be less trait options to choose from. As you can see in the picture above, Each core specialization line will have 9 major traits in total, 3 for each tier (adept, master and grandmaster). Some traits are being added to a professions kit such as ground targeting for necromancer wells which was a trait.

Elite Specialization is the other variation of Specializations. These specializations will be coming with Heart of Thorns such as the Ranger “Druid” specialization.

Profession Reward Track

prof-reward-track

This the new system for unlocking specializations and utility skills. Progression in these tracks will be done via Hero Points. These points are earned through leveling a character and Hero Challenges in the world (aka new name for Skill Challenges). So what happens to the skill points you have now? They’ll all be converted into a “new crafting material“. If you have a level 80 that has 13% map completion should be able to unlock enough utility skills, specialization lines and traits for some decent builds.

In this system there will be a reward track for each core specialization as well as utility types. For example, the Water Magic track is a specialization in which you first have to unlock the minor trait, then all the adept traits, then the next minor trait, then all the master traits… you get the idea. For utilities, elementalists have a set of utility skills called Cantrips which they would have to unlock one at a time. For the Utility tracks, it seems the healing skill will be the first to be unlocked (if any), the elite skill last (again, if any). All the other utilities that fit in the track will fall in between those two.

Reward tracks for Elite specializations will feature a bit more. An Elite Specialization track will unlock a new weapon, mechanics, skills and traits. These tracks also offer rewards such as new runes, sigils, the weapon skin linked to the elite specialization and an armor piece that is themed after the weapon skin.

Specializations For PvP

PvP players don’t fret. All core specializations will be unlocked and the Elite Specialization will be unlocked if you own Heart of Thorns.

Thoughts?

I really like this new Profession Reward system. Buying traits felt really unrewarding and going out to get traits could prove to be annoying depending on the content needed to be done. Earning my skills and traits by means I can control is a much better and more rewarding solution. The trait-to-specialization changes also help with balancing professions. Needless to say, some professions are better than others in PvP so maybe this will help even things out.

This does bring up a ton of questions. What happens to items that can be bought with skill points; will we need to use gold now? Will racial skills be part of the Profession Reward system? Well there will be a Q&A on the official Guild Wars 2 Twitch channel Friday, April 24th 2015 at noon Pacific. Be sure to tune in or check out the video later to find out more!

Thoughts On League Of Legends Season 5 Spring LCS Finals

LoL-LCS-700_h247

Europe Spring Finals

The European finals consisted of Fnatic vs Unicorns of Love. Now it’s really hard to tell who was going to win this one. On the one side, Fnatic is a solid team when they have good picks and a solid plan going in. On the other side, the Unicorns have these one off picks in best of 5s that just work for them in addition to being skilled.

Game 1 it seemed that Fnatic had an edge. then they went for an early Baron when Unicorns could have contested it. Then the Unicorns stole the Baron and won the team fight because Fnatic was low. That was the turning point. Unicorns just used Varus and Sivir to clear waves and take towers so fast. Game 3 was a more solid and controlled game by Fnatic, although you can see that they got a bit antsy. Game 3 was just insane. Fnatic has a great lead when they got Huni going on Hecarim but Unicorns just kept on taking any fights, barely getting out of fights even and getting towers in the process. Unicorns played like there weren’t down in gold in a constant zerg like pressure. However it wasn’t enough to stop Fnatic from taking the game. Game 4 was a bit stompy by Unicorns. Huni didn’t get the early level 2 on Shyvana and Unicorns composition was played out really well; so much that Fnatic couldn’t do anything. Finally, Game 5 ended with Fnatic simply crushing out the gate, even in great catches by the Unicorns Fnatic came out on top.

So Fnatic won it in the end; I’d say that Fnatic could have won the 4th match if they didn’t do the Smite Shyvana top lane. Fnatic showed a lot of control in most of their games even though they did go a bit off when the Unicorns went aggressive every 2 minutes in that Game 3.

North America Spring Finals

Cloud 9 vs Team Solo Mid. This one’s a classic but who was going to win it. I was going for Team Solo Mid and I did think they’d win it depending on which Cloud 9 showed up. If everyone on Cloud 9 were on their game, then yes, Cloud 9 had a good chance. However, they don’t seem as strong as they used to this split so I really had to wonder.

Game 1 seemed to be quite even but with TSM having an edge. However, Meteos landed an amazing 5 man Sejuani ult that just changed the game into Cloud 9’s favor. Game 2 had Bjergsen on AP Kog Maw. At first both teamed seemed to be even, maybe even with Cloud 9 with a bit of an edge. Then Bjergsen started killing people at the 30 minute mark. With TSM’s tank line, they were able to tkae the game into their hands. Games 3 and 4 were stomps as TSM controlled the games pretty much from start to finish. TSM did make one or two mistakes but they couldn’t be punished because they were so ahead.

Looking at each game, Hai was first blood a lot which is a problem. I remember mid way in the split he said that if he gets out of laning phase, the team should be ok. It seems he couldn’t do that in this series. Another person I want to talk about is Dyrus. He played Lulu the first game and I was afraid he’d be playing just that the entire series but he got on Sion and Maokai and low and behold, he did amazingly well. I strongly believe Dyrus on stronger tanky champions for this meta works well for him.

Conclusion of The Split

Conclusion of these finals shows that the teams with the better and consistent team play, rather than individual skill carrying alone, will win matches. Fnatic vs Unicorns was a fun series to watch because of all the action but TSM vs Cloud 9 wasn’t as fun mostly because of the dominance TSM showed when rolling into mid game. The mid season invitational will be a fun one to watch, I’m really curious where TSM and Fnatic will end up.

Guild Wars 2 Stronghold: Thoughts On What Players Should Keep In Mind

gw2-battle-of-champions-dusk

Hi guys! This week’s Guild Wars 2 post is on Stronghold. It’s no secret that I got into GW2 sPvP a few months back (if you watch my stream). So I was really excited that I could finally try out Stronghold. I spent a bunch of games trying out different ways of playing the map in addition observing how others play the map as well. You can check out some of those games here if you’d like to.  I’ve come up with a list of things I think you need to do fairly well in Stronghold. I also did a small summary of where I saw professions excel at.

Map Awareness Is Key

stronghold-map

This is a big, big, BIG thing players need to have. MOBA players know exactly what I’m talking about here. Map awareness is where you frequently check your mini map in order to determine where players are (on your team and the enemy team) and where you are most needed at that moment given your position. In Conquest, map awareness is more forgivable since the capture points are quite close to each other. However, the Stronghold map, Battle at Champion’s Dusk is quite large and you really need to assess where enemies are, what NPCs are going up and down lanes. You need to do all of this in order to keep your gates and lord alive while pressuring the enemy team to do the same.

Always Have NPCs Flowing

Chanelling-Barracks-590x331

This is something I noticed a lot in games. When there was a Hero spawn or if there was a heavy offense by the enemy team so that a lot of players had to go defend, that resulted in a lack of NPCs being channeled. This should never happen. Why? You’ll never get pressure back. Pretty much every game I played that a team had a good advantage or was pushing super hard resulted in the other team losing because they’re not getting any supply for NPCs and purely defending at some point. I believe that at every point in the game, there should be some Archers or Doorbreakers in your attacking lane.

Let’s give an example to show what I mean. Hero spawn timer just starts as you revive and the Hero spawn is near your away from your base. You notice everyone on your team and the enemy team is focused on getting the Hero (which is usually the case). You can either:

  1. Let some teammates contest while you run to supply camp, run back to channel a few Archers or Doorbreakers or one of each and then run to contest Hero or
  2. Run right away to contest with your team and no one gets any more NPCs.

Obviously this results in ultimately two situations. Your team get the Hero or the enemy team does. However, the pressure from your team can greatly be diminished or increased due to picking option 1 or 2. If you picked 1), and if you picked the NPCs accordingly, you’ll have less guards to deal with or even better a gate down or almost. Either way, the enemy team will have to go deal with it if they don’t want to lose more ground. This push gets even better if you got the Hero. If you went for 2) then you have no pressure so the enemy team has nothing to worry about so they can push harder into your base. This can be turned around if you get the Hero though. I don’t know about you, but I much prefer option 1) because you have some pressure attacking no matter what.

Take Out NPCs First & Players Second

gw2-stronghold-archer

Something I noticed with a few enemy players is that they were easily distracted by a low health thief (aka me). In fact, in one match, I kept 3 people busy trying to kill me as I popped in and out of stealth, just trying to survive the 50/50 AoE cleaves they were putting on me till I finally went down but I managed to buy my team plenty of time to get a bunch of NPCs to continue pushing in addition to letting the Doorbreakers I escorted to the inner gate do a ton of work.

You should always prioritize NPCs as the first target, whether attacking Guards or defending from Archers, Heroes or Doorbreakers. NPCs are what drive the progression your team makes. If enemy players are trying to kill you, try to kite them out as you take out the NPCs. No Doorbreakers for the enemy means less progress made on their part. No Guards in the enemy attack lane means an easier time getting your Doorbreakers through. It’s well worth it, I assure you.

Hard Crowd Control Is Essential To Have

gw2-stronghold-fight

I really didn’t think about it in my first couple of matches but I have to tell you, hard Crowd Control (or CC) is so useful in Stronghold. Stopping a person from channeling supply or a Hero is much like stopping a person from finishing a player. You need to either put them into downstate or have some hard CC. You’ll definitely need it for stopping supply runners or stopping a Hero channel. The following counts as hard CC:

  • Daze
  • Fear
  • Knockback
  • Knockdown
  • Launch
  • Pull
  • Stun
  • Petrify (Thief Basilisk Venom)
  • Frozen (from Elementalist Frost Bow “Deep Freeze” skill)

On the flip side, stability plays a major role to block out these Hard CCs. Be sure to take off stability stacks by using conditions and the like. Now that I’ve covered some essentials, let’s talk about roles and professions.

Stronghold Roles

Supply-run

There are many types of roles as outlined in a past ArenaNet article but I’ll generalize it into 4 main roles to make it easier:

  • Attacker – This person should be an enemy team’s nightmare. This person is constantly raiding enemy defenses in order to take out guards, the enemy trebuchet, or players that try to take out friendly NPCs
  • Defender – This person is vigilant in making sure enemy NPCs are taken out or that enemy players do not take out guards
  • Supply Runner – This person is, in my opinion, the most valuable person. They constantly run supply for the consistent flow of NPCs for attacking the gate
  • Escort – This person supports the NPCs in the attacking lane either by buffs, heals or protection from enemy players

Note that anyone can play these roles and you can easy roam and switch to another role when necessary. For example, I can be an attacker and consistently be taking out guards until 2 players finally take me out. Then when I respawn, I can become a supply runner if no one is running supply or, if a lot of NPCs are at my gate, I can transition to a defender.

Professions In Stronghold

Now, even though any profession can play the roles mentioned above, some professions excel at certain things which make them a great asset to Stronghold. Let’s go over some of them.

Guardian – Support Guardians are amazing at escorting NPCs as proven by Environment Artist Tirzah Bauer. In Stronghold dev matches, she ran a Consecration build in order to keep Doorbreakers healed and protected from damage. It was quite impressive. You can check it out the dev matches in this video.

Warrior – I have to say, warriors are definitely great attackers. With their survivability, they can easily argo guards while taking them out in addition to taking on enemy players allowing Doorbreakers to get through. Or they can go for a more damage oriented route and take out guards even more quickly.

Revenant – Not 100% sure on this but I feel that they can be great defenders, especially with the taunt chain on enemy heroes.

Engineer – Engineers provide solid defense. Place turrets at your gate, hop onto the trebuchet and clear out the waves of NPCs or stand firm alongside your turrets. You can even bunker down the supply camp and not allow any enemies in without them taking some form of damage.

Ranger – With longbow, Rangers really do excel at attacking and defending. Rangers can cover and defend a lane while staying near the supply camp to assist runners. They can also, burst enemy Guards down from a distance or agro them early to keep them off Doorbreakers.

Thief – Thieves are great at supply running. With high mobility from shortbow they can get to a supply camp and back to NPC channel doors quite quickly. Similarly with Warriors, they also make for great attackers if built for high burst and can slip away if getting attacked too much.

Elementalist – Staff support ele comes into play as a viable Escort keeping NPCs alive as they move forward is vital for winning Stronghold matches.

Mesmer – The use of Portal at the right times can really make Mesmers a valuable asset as a supply runner in addition to Blink and clones they can make to get away with supply. They can also make for great defenders slowing NPCs and barraging them with AoE conditions and burst damage. Shatter Mesmer anyone?

Necromancer – I didn’t see a lot of Necromancers but the ones I saw did well as defenders. They bring a lot of AoE slows, damage and fears in order to strive off a horde of Doorbreakers, Archers and enemy players. It’s one of the greatest assets a Necromancer (especially a Staff Necromancer) can bring to slow an assault.

I have to applaud ArenaNet on this amazing mode. Watching the 23 hour stream of streamers from both PvE and PvP background you can tell this mode is fun for players of both backgrounds. Even streamers that are coming back to Guild Wars 2 had fun with the mode. I really can’t wait till it comes back again, either in another beta or on release of Heart of Thorns. Oh and don’t worry, I did actually do some beta testing. In fact, I have a list of bugs/suggestions I have to review and articulate out before I post them on the forums.

Thoughts On League Of Legends Season 5 Spring LCS Semifinals

LCS-Week-4

Wow. So I have to say, right off the bat that these semi finals were intense. 3 games went to all 5 being played and I was impressed. So let’s hop right in.

Europe Spring Semifinals

The first European semi final was between H2K and Fnatic. Both team are really good but it was hard to call out a clear winner. There were games where Huni (Fnatic’s top laner) played Lee Sin. This only worked out when Huni applied jungle pressure as well as top lane pressure. Otherwise, it fell flat. I felt this pick lead to Fnatic dropping 2 games. Lee Sin is a great champion but needs to apply pressure early to get ahead or to be useful, Later in the game, I find in this meta, a top Lee Sin won’t be as effective as a Maokai or Hecarim. Thankfully, Huni switch to Vladimir who actually provides a lot of pressure and a great ult for teamfights. Utimately Reignover carried hard and Febiven did as well on Zed and Leblanc which lead to Fnatic winning games 2,4 and 5 making them the first EU finalists. H2K played really well for their first LCS split getting better and better. They have great team play but it seemed Fnatic was the better team this time around.

The second European semi final was between SK Gaming and Unicorns of Love. Now this was another matchup that could have gone either way. SK Gaming is a solid team but Unicorns of Love love bringing out different thigns in bets of 5s. The first game was AP Kog Mog mid for Unicorns of Love which proved to be a really menacing champion with full spell pen and Luden’s Echo for more poke. Kog was able to go ham and deathless for the first UOL win. Game 3 which UOL won they just decimated SK giving them no kills whatsoever. It was pretty awesome. SK’s wins honestly came from Svenskeren’s Jungle Lee Sin in games 2 and 4 which made some major plays securing the early game leads and working off of that. Game 5 was anyone’s game. Game 5 seemed to be going to SK Gaming but a Baron steal by PowerOfEvil ept UOL in it and they were able to take it to late game and win the teamfight that secured UOL the 5th game and the other spot to finals.

North America Spring Semifinals

The first final was between Cloud 9 and Team Liquid. I thought that C9 would take the series but wouldn’t get a clean series win. It didn’t look like Cloud 9 would win at all. They dropped the first two games; the first game Liquid outplayed C9 and the second is because of Fenix’s Azir being too much for C9 as it shredded through HP. In Games 3 and 4 Cloud 9 put pressure on Piglet and Xpecial finding their leads there which transitioned into wins. They also had Hai on Corki which proved to be his best champion for the series. Game 5 started out with C9 getting 3 kills in the bottom lane  on Quas, Xpecial and IWillDominate. That gave C9 a lead and Balls an advantage in lane. C9 were able to keep their lead and won the 5th game and the series.

The second final was between Team Impulse and Team Solo Mid. I leaned more toward TSM for this series but it wouldn’t be easy due to Rush. Game 1 proved that to be right. Rush was a nuisance on Nunu and kept on being an aggressive slowing machine. Impulse did get a good buff start as well and Rush was able to put more pressure than Santorin which leads to Impulse getting 5 Dragons for that OP buff and this allowed Impulse to secure game 1. After this game, the rest were in favor of TSM finding the early picks for the lead. In fact, Rush was dying a lot to TSM in game 3 on his Lee Sin which was quite surprising. In the end, TSM’s early movements got them the wins in games 2, 3 and 4 which means they’ll be heading to the finals.

Looking Forward To In Finals

Let’s talk 3rd place finish first. I honestly think H2K can get 3rd vs SK Gaming. It seems that if you take away Lee Sin and some ADC picks then play it well in the laning phase in order to not let Svenskeren ruin your day, then H2K should be good. For NA, I think Impulse can win vs Liquid but the vice versa can be said. I really don’t know who will win that one.

Now for the finals. I really can’t predict who will win. Fnatic vs Unicorns of Love will just depend if Fnatic can handle the one off picks UOL will bring out and if UOL can get an early lead on Fnatic. TSM vs Cloud9 both teams have fought each over in finals but I feel that TSM has a better chance because I feel that they won’t give out early leads that easily and they can survive the laning phase. However, if TSM give up too many objectives, that might prove to be an issue.

Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns – Getting The Most Out Of Maguuma

gw2-Mushroom

Hey all, if you’ve been following Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns news as closely as I have, you know most about what I’m going to say. But for those who don’t, let’s go over some of the gameplay features Scott McGough wrote in a blog post explaining what the Maguuma jungle has to offer.

First off we have the 3 biomes, aka tiers of land, that we’ll be able to explore. There will also be day/night cycle where the landscape will be more dangerous at night. There’s also ways of traveling in these areas and Maxing your masteries in various lines will grant you access to these areas. For instance, maxing the glider will let you reach new heights and maxing a language will unlock different areas that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to explore.

Replayability is another aspect Heart of Thorns has as various decisions you make play out a story instance differently. For example the Laranthir story instance is the first instance you play. You’ll have to option to relieve him, or to search for his men. Choosing either option has a different result. Achievements are also in place to promote replaying the story in a different path.

I’ve said this before but characters can talk now! Which may not seem much but it bring more immersion as you can feel your character become more important and more involved in the story.

Over all, these changes are quite impressive and you can definitely tell that ArenaNet are learning from past Living Story and even the launch of Guild Wars 2. The choices you made in personal story didn’t have a real effect on the world or how you play future instances. It was more like, “these NPCs will be joining you on your quest instead of these ones”. I guess the argument is that you learn about different NPCs and hear their stories which is totally fine. Also, I expected the end result no matter what path you took is to kill Zhaitan. I guess what I’m hoping for is more variation in how to story is played out, that we have true branching stories that, in the end, will all lead back to a final fight with Mordremoth.

Exploration is another thing I like. Most older MMOs suffer from areas being empty due to there being nothing to do. However, ArenaNet has implemented ways to get players into those areas with dailies, Living Story patches, and so on. With getting HoT achievements by redoing the story differently it promotes the HoT areas (at least) to be explored. Also, the Mastery system will prompt players back into the original GW2 areas as well.

I’m really looking forward to how ArenaNet will make the story feel diverse and uses the Mastery System to encourage players to reach new locations.