Chrono Trigger Discussion Podcast #6

Major story revelations unfold in a segment that includes the Blackbird escape, the confrontation with Magus at North Cape, and the quest to take the Chrono Trigger to Death Peak to undo what had been done at Ocean Palace.

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Lucca's midair leap onto Epoch.

Lucca’s midair leap onto Epoch.

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Chrono Trigger Discussion Podcast #5

As expected, the initial arrival at Zeal, even though it’s mostly a few minutes of talking to NPCs and looking around, has a huge amount to unpack. We carry on through being exiled from Zeal, going to Keeper’s Done in 2300 AD to find a way back to the past, and end with the dramatic scene that takes place at Ocean Palace.

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Corridors of Time (Enhasa and Kajar)

The Ocean Palace

Schala’s Theme

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Janus's foreboding

Janus’s foreboding

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Chrono Trigger Discussion Podcast #4

Even though this segment has only Magus’s castle and Tyrano Lair, there is a lot to discuss. We revisit the personalities of Frog and Ayla, learn about the overall structure of the game, and witness the arrival of Lavos. I can’t resist building up the upcoming segment a bit.

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Magus’s castle music.

Theme from the fight with Magus.

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Magus's Castle

Magus’s Castle

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Chrono Trigger Discussion Podcast #3

A segment covering a lot of material including the arrival at Medina Village, Heckran Cave, the war in 600 AD, reuniting with Frog, and a visit to 65,000,000 BC. Along the way we discuss the combat mechanics, and what we’ve learned about the personalities of Frog and Ayla.

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Frog's understanding of heroism

Frog’s understanding of heroism

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Chrono Trigger Discussion Podcast #2

Dayani and I return to discuss another segment of Chrono Trigger. This time we cover the prison escape, the Future, and the End of Time. In particular, we stop for a while on her reactions to powerful moments in Arris Dome, when the reality of what the future holds is revealed, and in the Factory, on witnessing the persecution of Robo.

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Bangor Dome, 2300 AD

Bangor Dome, 2300 AD

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Chrono Trigger Discussion Podcast #1

Dayani and I missed talking to you all too much to let it go.  While we’re not podcasting about WoW healing anymore, we were having another discussion recently that seemed perfect to record and share.  As you probably know from her twitter, she has recently started playing an old classic, Chrono Trigger, for the first time.  And since it’s always been a top favorite of mine, we thought it would be fun to share a discussion about a popular nostalgic game from two different perspectives.

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The Ocarina of Time Notes, a similar project I did once, mentioned near the start.

The Cathedral

The Cathedral

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Darkest Dungeon

Been playing this a lot for the past few days. Into the latter half of my first playthrough. Various thoughts:

Overall it’s great. The writing and atmosphere are very cool, and consistently build on the themes of exploring the mental effect of being in a gothic horror setting. Very immersive throughout.

The game systems are well setup to hit all the standard roguelike patterns for people who like XCOM et al. Making the choice not to have a failure state (no game over) is a very significant one. It enables a slightly different direction from a lot of similar games–more drawn-out pacing, and you do all your learning within one playthrough. And the gameplay is carefully set up to reinforce the themes: right as you start out, buildup of stress and other afflictions is too high to deal with efficiently, so you have to give in to treating your adventurers disposably.

Design-y criticisms:

1) It’s missing any sense of intermediate progression targets to keep you motivated. In XCOM, you were always looking forward to the next “new” thing you were getting right after the next mission or two–new guns, new research, new building, etc. A lot of times when a mission popped you didn’t exactly feel like doing it, because you were actually hoping time run on until your next little progression rush from finishing a project. But you’d focus and get into the mission, and would often enjoy playing with whatever your latest new toy was. Then you go back to look forward to the strategy progress aside. DD just doesn’t have those progression beats on the strategy side. You want to farm up deeds etc. so your character upgrades go to higher numbers and are cheaper. Once you get a sense of how it all works, it’s too transparent that you can just say “okay, after I get X hundred deeds I’ll have the strongest characters and can work on the endgame.” XCOM _never_ made me think (even though I theoretically could), “okay, I just need Y scientist-days of total research to fill out the whole tree, so let’s grind out missions until I get there.”

The outcome I predict is that I’m going to plow on enthusiastically with my initial rush of enjoyment of the game’s systems, and curiosity about the final dungeon. But once I start suffering setbacks that cause me to redo any grind, the motivation will evaporate and I’ll stop playing, feeling like I saw all the gameplay it had to offer.

2) There’s a really bad progression snarl based on the rule that high-level soldiers won’t go on low-level missions. I get what they’re trying to do, but it’s not extremely well thought-out. Your adventurers’ strength is based not just on their level, but on their gear and trinkets (in fact, the latter two are a lot more important). So even if you’re trying to build up your party strength by improving your Blacksmith before going into higher-level areas, you might have many adventurers who refuse to go to any areas other than the higher-level ones. At minimum, you wind up leaving lots of adventurers at, say, freshly L3, while you use your L1-2s to farm up materials to upgrade the L3 guys further. In the extreme, this can lead to the bizarre case of wanting to fire mid-level characters to make room for lower-level characters who have the “advantage” of actually being willing to do the missions you want to do. Again, I get they’re trying to prod you to keep pressing on, but this is a very messy and aggravating way of doing it. A simple rule like “the adventurers don’t gain XP from too-low-level missions” would accomplish the goal of making you get into the higher ones to keep progressing.

3) There’s too much fiddly setup before a mission. Here’s my general routine between finishing a dungeon and starting the next:
–Check if I have mats to upgrade any buildings
–Check if anyone on the Stagecoach I want to recruit (can be a complicated decision since I have to fire someone if so)
–Check what missions are available, and which one I want to do
–Pick a party for that mission (also complicated, but no complaint here since it’s the interesting part)
–Go back to the town screen, and drop each of those party members into the Blacksmith to see if they have any gear upgrades I want to get them
–Then the same for the Guild Hall for skill upgrades, and also checking if I want to swap any skills in/out on the characters based on that particular party lineup and mission
–Same at the Survivalist, although at least you really only need it once per character
–Of all the characters that aren’t going, who needs disease treatment, who needs stress relief–put them in those buildings.
–Scroll through all the remaining characters and pick a few negative traits to remove–put those in the Sanatarium.
–Check the trinket shop for anything interesting
–Open the trinket box. Unequip all trinkets, then pick some out for this mission to equip to the planned party.
–Pick provisions (usually formulaic based on mission area and length) and go.

There’s just too much hassle here. You probably didn’t even read all that. Looking again to XCOM, it’s really worth thinking about the ways that it avoids burying you in a nonstop slew of really minor decisions–this is one of its important successes. Most things on the overworld take time, so you really only have to actively make choices in 1 or 2 buildings at any given point. Characters of the same class are the same other than talents, and can’t be respecced. Accessory slots have some more standard basic options so you’re not totally re-picking from a large complex list every mission.

Darkest does have interesting systems around characters/skills and trinkets, that allow for good customization and formation of a plan. But the lesson from XCOM would be to be more parsimonous about the different things that the player can constantly rearrange and juggle, while figuring out how to distill out only the important strategic decisions.

Healing Discussion Podcast #13

Back for one more extra-long podcast with Dayani, where we first catch up on a few ongoing 6.2 points.  Then we turn our attention to the state of healing overall and what we’re thinking about with the impending 7.0 announcement.  Finally, since this is our final show, we talk about how great it’s been to have everyone’s interest and discussion this whole time.

Thanks for listening!

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0:00 Introduction & Catching Up

1:05 Etheralus, the Eternal Reward
> 1:15 Basic Etheralus mechanics (Dayani’s post)
> 3:45 How to use the ring CD

8:30 6.2 Trinket thoughts
> 9:15 Demonic Phylactery
> 10:45 Mark of Supreme Doom & the DPS/survivability tradeoff

18:40 Warlords of Draenor Healing Retrospective
>19:10 Our positive experiences in WoD
> 22:46 Mana management/Spirit in HFC (referenced Phylactery spreadsheet)
> 34:24 Smart healing/AoE healing/Targeted healing balance (and http://www.healergame.com/ )
> 47:30 Aesthetic feel & feedback from healing spells
> 53:30 Positioning/interacting with the game world/encounters

58:25 Healing gameplay derived from encounter mechanics/design
> 59:45 Healers’ role during damage lulls
> 66:00 Encounter comparison: Iron Maidens vs Gorefiend
> 69:50 Use of healing CDs – Gorefiend’s Feast of Souls vs Kromog’s Stone Breath, Mar’gok, Hellfire High Council
> 74:27 Role of healing CDs in WoD vs MoP;
> 78:10 CDs and unavoidable damage as a method of enforcing # of healers; the Mythic Tectus example
> 82:25 Healer-specific mechanics; an Iskar interlude

88:35 Summary of our WoD survey
90:00 Outro: Good-bye and good luck to Hamlet at Blizzard!

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Raid Awareness WeakAuras, Hellfire Citadel

I’ve been busy lately and not as much into theorycraft projects as usual.  But a lot of people have asked me during this first week of Hellfire Citadel whether I was going to reprise my Blackrock Foundry Weakaura project for the new zone.  Since this is something I wanted to do anyway to help my own raid group, I figured I’d try to get a basic version ready for people who were interested.  Note that a lot of these are untested; I’ve only seen about half the fights so far, so give me any feedback on how it works.

Once again, I got Dayani from Healiocentric to go over all these fights and mechanics with me, as she put a huge amount of work into learning them on the beta for the purpose of writing her guides.  If you want any explanation of the encounters/mechanics listed here, I recommend you take a look at those.

For I’m just going to include the WeakAura downloads and the list of abilities I used.  See the BRF post for more explanation of the setup if you need.

WeakAura Downloads

Addon: WeakAuras 2

Awareness Auras (debuff alert and standing-in-fire alert), v 0.9: WA String

Interrupt Bars (target/focus castbar showing important spells), v 0.9: WA String

So far, includes Heroic difficulty mechanics only.  These include all the bosses already, but I haven’t gotten to test the later ones, so please report anything odd on those ones especially.

Last time around, there was a bug, I think on the WA side, where the icon displayed wouldn’t always match up to the current debuff (I have the display set to “Automatic Icon”).  I worked around it by breaking a lot of debuffs into separate auras and setting the icon manually, but that was a pain and made the package a lot bigger.  So far I haven’t done that here; let me know if you see anything wrong (or are a WA expert who might know how to address this).

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Healing Discussion Podcast #12

It’s been a while!  But here we are again, starting to ramp up thoughts for 6.2: both reviewing where we’ve gotten on some topics like Spirit and trinkets, and anticipating what the most important issues might be for potential class changes.

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Topic List:
0:00 Intro
1:53 Spirit Growth in 6.2
> 2:35 Mana Economy and Spirit Acceleration in 6.1-6.2 (my recent post)
> 6:15 Mana inflation in previous expansions
> 8:20 Flattening the Spirit growth curve
> 14:45 Adjusting to a lower Spirit playstyle (Current 6.2 trinkets)
> 30:00 Design Principles: Constraining player ability to promote engaging choices
35:15 Raid comp balance for healers
> 35:40 Where we were at the end of MoP
> 37:55 The guaranteed Disc Priest raid spot
> 40:26 Interlude on using HPS meters to evaluate class balance
> 48:10 The guaranteed Holy Paladin raid spot
> 49:05 Interlude on Raid CDs, their role in healer balance, and Avenging Wrath
> 53:52 WoD Beacon : tank healing :: MoP smart heals : tank healing
> 56:28 Holy Light’s efficiency, and Holy Power’s diminished role
> 66:56 The tank healing “niche” & the value of Clarity of Will
> 69:15 Dayani’s rant about Resto Shaman perception
73:40 The TL;DR: Mana failed to matter, and this skews class balance
76:30 Outro

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