EVE Online: Preying on the Weak

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Tracker Wolf has taken it upon himself to teach this noob the basics of PvP in EVE Online. The game is pretty complicated to begin with, but PvP is like lifting up the control panel for Boeing 747 and finding the controls for the space shuttle underneath.

Hanging in a safe spot deep within lowsec, narrowing in on lone pilots using half intuitive, half trial and error pings from the system scanner? Done that. Bringing up information about the pilot and their ship, length of play, corporation and so forth to see how likely they are to put up a fight? Done that.

Swooped in like an angel of death, warp scrambler pinning them in place while drones and missiles slam into their hull again and again?

Done that.

I’m not really a killer, and mostly (when Tracker Wolf asked after) I just felt kinda bad for the guy. He’d just killed a couple of rats, was in a destroyer but clearly damaged, and then WE swoop in like vultures and rip him apart. I didn’t want to pod him, because everyone loses ships, but podding someone is just being mean.

But hanging motionless in deadspace in the Tin Empress (my PvP Tristan), using an imperfect tool like the system scanner to place someone in the vastness of the system — now THAT’S cool. Like being the submarine person who has to listen for the tell-tale cavitation of the propellers of enemy ships to guess if they are the hunters or the hunted. In lowsec, you are both.

Fate had its way with me later on, as a sudden swarm of NPCs tore my Catalyst, Corner Time Out, apart on a mission. I’d refit my salvager as a mission runner/salvager so that I wouldn’t have to always be swapping ships, and it had been working out fine until I met the Morgun. I wasn’t prepared for how quickly they could take apart my shields — and plus, I was webbed. I went back with my PvE Tristan, Isis’ Dark Laughter, but just barely escaped before that ship was also blown away.

So tonight I will just lie low, I think, and let the last skill I need before I can fly my Retriever mining barge finish training. Sunday starts the training for the Vexor, but before I get that, I need to fit another mission Catalyst — one that can tank a little better. Tracker Wolf sent me a couple PvP Tristan builds, so the Empress will likely be getting an upgrade as well.

Wizard 101: Arena Season 1 and Automagic


Well, given the state of PvP as aptly described by The Friendly Necromancer, where endless reshuffles and easy access by everyone to the most powerful healing spell in the entire game combine to make duels extremely lengthy affairs, I’m not sure how Wizard 101’s Season 1 Arena will work out, but they’re going to be having a go at it.

Without the superior gear available as rewards from World of Warcraft’s arena battles, I’m not sure how many people will really want to do hours long duels (even the 2v2 I was doing with my balance wizard + random partners tended to last ages), but for good or ill, the promised arena battles and pvp ladders are coming today. The standings are by level and by overall success, and come with badges and rewards you can’t get any other way, so if you think you have a meaner killer instinct than your everyday, common, pig-zapping wizard, why not visit Diego in Unicorn Way and sign up?

Sean Emeraldweaver, a Wizard101 blogger from Alaska, wanted me to show his video advertisement for his blog, Automagic. Hey, I’m proud to write for Sean’s second favorite blog ;) It’s wonderful to see so many new W101 bloggers. The game definitely deserves more press!

Wizard 101: Killing me softly with your spells

High level players gathered at the duel masters

Wizard 101’s surprise announcement of a full PvP Arena system to accompany the PvE-focused excitement of the next world, Dragonspyre, early next year shocked and electrified the community. It’s one thing to beat easy and predictable computer opponents in the W101 game of magical cards. Battling human players is a whole different story. You can’t truly say you’re a master wizard until you can beat human opponents.

Can Wizard 101 deliver both a kid friendly game and also satisfying PvP?

About to lose a 1v1 duel

Dueling has always been in the game; one of the first quests you get in Wizard 101 takes you to the Arena to learn the finer points of battling with cards. The new Arena system builds on the old one. You still go to the Arena, but instead of heading down the stairs and into the Arena, you speak with one of the two guards on duty. Tweedle Dee (the one on the left) matches people up for ranked missions, from individual 1v1 duels to 4v4 grand mêlées, and lets you peek in on duels and battles in progress.

Tweedle Dum (on the right) sets you up for practice duels. Unlike the ranked missions, battling here won’t change your ranking. Here, though, you can just play for fun or wager on the outcome of duels. When you tell someone to put their money where their mouth is, Tweedle Dum is the man to see to let you work it out on the hot sands of the dueling ground.

Filling up the team for a 4v4 battle

Unfortunately for PvP anyway, there is no smack talking on the dueling fields. And since there is no team-specific chat, casually suggesting to your group that everyone focus on the Life wizard on the other team is going to be clearly heard by the other side, who likely have different ideas of what to do with their main healer. This makes it hard to coordinate attacks among team mates. All you can do is hope your team mates figure out what you’re doing and follow along.

Us vs Them on the killing fields of the Arena

Not that there’s terribly much variation. In 1v1 duels, wizards tend to use very short decks that focus on multiplying a specific attack to end the duel in spectacular 3000+ damage fashion. My very first duel, I was killed by a necromancer who had two traps on me, two blades hovering over him, and I just couldn’t find my myth/death shield fast enough to blunt the blow. I knew darn well what was coming, but I couldn’t avoid it, and learned my lesson.

In duels, shields are your best friends.

The larger 3v3 and 4v4 fights are all about the group damage spells. You’ll never kill the other team by focusing on just one; the others will just heal them, as everyone has heal spells either in their deck or their sideboards. Massive group damage is the only way to keep people worrying about themselves and not about helping out their team mates.

My evil twin. I so totally killed her in battle

There is something truly satisfying about surviving an arena match full of people who likely are better geared and higher level than yourself. I’ve never seen so many level 50 people as I have seen today. It’s been virtually impossible for Johnny-come-latelies such as myself, who took my own sweet time leveling, to level past the mid-40s since KingsIsle removed the experience for repeating instances.

Comparing PvP (left) and PvE (right) gear

MMO PvP has always suffered the twin Achilles heels of level and gear imbalance. W101 is not particularly a level-focused game, except as far as the level and quality of the spells you have in your deck. You can, after all, just buy those cards at the various card vendors, so even a level 1 wizard can (potentially) cast the most damaging spell in the game if they have the treasure card for it.

Gear is also not an issue, since every single person — without exception — that I fought today was outfitted either completely in RMT gear (which you can buy with vast amounts of in-game gold if you don’t want to pay real bucks for the stuff), or in a combination of RMT and Oni gear (as I am).

RMT gear gives you good resists across the board, improves the damage of every spell you cast, improves your chance of getting power pips, and all around, is just good stuff to have in a duel.

Diego, the horse guy who instructs new wizards in the art of the Arena, also sells special PvP-oriented gear that can be bought only with Arena tickets. You get 3 of these tickets for losing a ranked Arena battle, and 10 for winning one. If you are the world’s best player and win every one of your Arena duels, then just 105 of them later, you can afford the above robe, roughly comparable to the robe I won from the Jade Oni, pre-Oni loot nerf.

Neither robe at all compares with the RMT robe, though. Both the PvP robe and the Oni robe only boost Life damage and resists, where RMT robes improve ALL resists and ALL damage, and toss in a spell to boot.

Balancing PvP gear is a tough job no matter what the game. Here in W101, they have chosen to balance their PvP gear according to the best PvE gear of the same rank; but few duelers at max level won’t have the RMT armor, which dwarfs both the PvP and PvE gear. I imagine KingsIsle still has some PvP gear balancing to do; either to make it easier to obtain, or markedly superior to the RMT armor, or possessing some special attacks that are only useful in duels. As it is now, folks will just use the RMT armor.

Once you have queued up for a match, you can go about your business and you’ll be ported to the Arena when your teams are ready to battle. This doesn’t seem to work while in minigames, though, which is too bad, since they have a fun new minigame I was having a good time with today.

The lack of guilds or clans has been somewhat eased by having the teams you form persist from battle to battle, which is a nice touch — but I would still really prefer to have a guild or a clan so we could discuss fights and strategies without the rest of the world listening in.

As a Life wizard, there is no way I can match the sheer damage output of other classes, but I can definitely make it very tough for an opposing team to take my team down. I would definitely prefer, then, to stick with 3v3 or 4v4 fights where my particular powers can shine. 1v1 duels are fun, though… but it often comes down to keeping shields up and heals going. Almost all the duelists I met today were extremely well prepared for battle, with tightly focused short decks and sideboards full of useful cards.

Duels are not something you can sleepwalk through, and that is likely the best reason of all to join the fight.

Wizard 101 Arena Season 1

Given a games company founded by the developers of the PvP-centric MMO Shadowbane, and the fragfest shooters DOOM and Wolfenstein 3D, making a game centered around a bloodless card game where kids could battle monsters with funny monsters of their own must have been a little tough.

Stingite over at The Friendly Necromancer says that that’s all about to change.

Just in time for Christmas, the small dueling arena (picture on top) is being entirely revamped. There will be leader boards, ladder, arena ranking, matches, betting, special PvP loot… This is all sounding so incredibly familiar.

I’m not sure that adding a strong PvP element to Wizard 101 should have taken priority over pushing Dragonspyre out, but, there ya have it. A WoW-like Arena system is coming to W101.

Full details past the fold, but I’d like to point out this quote from Director Todd Coleman:

“If you prefer questing or mini-games, great… you never have to duel another player,” said Todd Coleman, Director of Wizard101. “But families — and a lot of core gamers that are playing Wizard101 too — are going to have a great time competing against other players in the Wizard Arena.”

In the best of all possible worlds, perhaps… but we all know what happens in arenas. The absolute worst impulses of your MMO player come out. But Coleman does point out that a lot of core gamers — if you read this blog, you are one — play W101.

Were you really waiting on an arena? As a core gamer myself, here are the things I put above an arena: An unfiltered chat server for adults. Guilds. Appearance slots. Customizable housing. Some basic means of crafting, perhaps combining the stats of one item with the look of another. A broker for treasure cards where players can make and trade them. Guilds — I list that again because how can you even have structured PvP without guilds or clans?. Larger battles than 4v4. Some sort of basic raids. The new, rumored Astral magic. The ability to re-spend training points.

I’ll play the Arena, but I find PvP fairly dull. I do like the sense of danger it brings to a game world, but when I’m involved in PvP, I usually wish I were doing something fun instead.

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