Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Most Annoying Abilities in WoW- March Madness Style: Part 4!

After a brief break, the MAAWoW tournament has returned with its fourth installment!

For those of you that aren't up to date, this is a tournament pitting the most annoying abilities in Warcraft against each other for the title of The Most Annoying Ability in WoW. We are currently in the preliminary rounds, determining which ability will represent each class in the final bracket. So far the results of the previous rounds:

Previously we explored some of the most annoying abilities of the Mage class and determined that Ice Block was the most annoying ability. Today we're going to break from tradition and take a look at two classes, the Shaman and Hunter classes.


Hunters are a versatile class that has many unique abilities. They can tame mighty beasts to fight alongside them as they pepper opponents with blasts from their blunderbuss. Or they can plant traps for overzealous enemies to become ensnared, or swarmed by venomous snakes. They pack a lot of punch into their ranged attacks, and often times you'll be on the receiving end of curb-stomp from their pet while they're lighting you up from a safe distance.

As the only class to use traps, and one of two classes to have pets- Hunters had several interesting abilities to consider for the tournament. The abilities I chose to represent the class were the abilities Scattershot, Disengage, Freezing Trap, and Feign Death. These abilities will square off for the title of the most annoying Hunter ability and ultimately the chance to be named the most annoying ability in WoW.

The first round of the Hunter bracket pit the crowd control ability Scatter Shot against the relatively new defensive ability, Disengage. Disengage was added to the Hunter's arsenal as a way to quickly put distance between a Hunter and its enemy, allowing it to execute any of its numerous and devastating ranged attacks. this ability is particularly frustrating against a class with no gap closing ability (ahem Paladin). Meanwhile, Scatter Shot causes you to lose control of your character as it staggers aimlessly for a few seconds. While the defensive capability of Disengage can be very frustrating, it is easily countered with abilities like Death Grip, in addition it can be quick humorous when a Hunter disengages off the edge of a cliff. So for the first round, Scatter Shot advances!

Next, Freezing Trap faces off against Feign Death in another battle between a defensive ability and a crowd control ability. Feign Death is unique in that it causes enemy players to drop the Hunter as a target and switch to the Hunter's pet. This can buy the Hunter precious time in a close fight. Meanwhile, Freezing Trap is the essential CC ability for the class, freezing an enemy into a solid block of ice. While Feign Death may cause some momentary confusion for some opponents, most people are well aware of this little trick, rendering it pretty useless in serious PvP environments. So Frost Trap moves on to the second round.

The final round for the Hunter bracket comes down to Freezing Trap vs. Scatter Shot. Two CC abilities, which can frustrate opponents if their trinkets are on cooldown at an inopportune time. While both have their merits for being the most annoying Hunter ability, this one is cut and dry for me. I despise any ability that removes control of my character and makes him wander around like an idiot. So the winner, in a first-round knockout, Scatter Shot!


One of the most unique classes in Warcraft, the spiritualistic Shamans (notoriously) were originally a Horde exclusive class, and the counterpart to the Paladin class. Historically they have frustrated opponents with their healing ability, their totems, and their ability to self-rez in the middle of battle.

For the title of most annoying Shaman ability we're going to focus on some classic Shaman abilities, and some new ones. Earthbind Totem, Hex, Thunderstorm, and Reincarnation will face off for Shaman annoyance supremacy!

First, two CC abilities clash. Earthbind Totem is an ability very similar to a Druid's Roots ability, pinning an enemy in place with vines that shoot up from the ground. Hex is akin to a Mage's Polymorph ability, transforming an opponent into a frog. Both abilities can be annoying, but Earthbind is more easily counter-able, so Hex advances.

Next, the relatively new ability Thunderstorm squares off against the classic, Reincarnate (also called Ankh in reference to the reagent required to cast the ability). Ankh was one of the most hated abilities in WoW vanilla by some players, and is even referenced in the classic WoW parody song, That's the World of Warcraft that You Play, (Shamans, you are the most overpowered class... be sure to keep reincarnation up and it will take ten Alliance just to bring you down).

While Ankh is widely considered to be very annoying when used properly, it loses a lot of luster because it isn't usable in the competitive e-sport of arenas. Meanwhile, Thunderstorm is an aoe ability that calls down a bolt of lightning to send enemies flying. This often has the very intended consequence of launches players into the Twisting Nether when they find themselves between a Shaman and any ledge (specifically in EOTS). For the annoyance of falling to your death as the Shaman emotes you, and for the repair bill from durability- Thunderstorm advances.

The final round showcases Hex and Thunderstorm. While Hex can be annoying, it is widely considered weak since the player retains control of his character and is able to flee. Meanwhile, aside from completely avoiding ledges or EOTS, Thunderstorm has no real counter... So in a surprise twist, Thunderstorm claims the title of most annoying Shaman ability!

After four preliminary rounds, the final bracket is shaping up nicely:

Do you agree with my assessments? Hate my picks for the classes? Think I'm completely off the mark? Let me know in the comments what abilities didn't get enough love, or which got too much. And check out the previous entries in the competition to see how biased I can be!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Dogs have fleas.... get it?

A new comic for your enjoyment. Squint as hard as you can to read the font, it adds to the fun!


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Beginning of a Minecraft Kingdom...

Hello! So I have been putting a lot of time into the game Minecraft recently, playing around with the terraforming capability as well as the crafting ability, and I am excited to unveil images of my fortress!

High atop the tallest mountain in the realm of Paladinbiasistan, sits a heavily fortified tower looming over the lands below.

From the front you can see the stonework used to craft the walls, as well as the terraforming utilized for the stairs leading to the door (as well as the entire piece of land the fortress rests on, believe me it took a lot of shoveling to make it flat!).

Stepping inside, you'll see how well lit I like to keep my fortress, a method of deterring attacks from pesky zombies and skeletons. You'll also notice a storage chest, furnace, and crafting table.

My favorite feature of the fortress is the moat in front of it that I painstakingly dug, and filled with water. Believe me, this was an undertaking, I lugged buckets of water all the way to the top of the mountain for this.

But the best part of the moat... It's not just an aesthetic! It actually works as a defensive structure! (Notice the zombie approaching from the distance in the picture below).

Poor little guy, if only he could jump high enough to get out... Oh well, hope he enjoyed marinating in my moat until the sun came up and he exploded from the light.

I also built a dungeon beneath my castle. At the moment it serves no real purpose, but I'm sure I'll find a use for it if anyone decides to question my rule over these polygonal lands!

In the back of my castle I built a secret tunnel for rapidly descending and ascending. It's dug straight down into the ground and has a ladder system running along the inside of it, periodically illuminated by candles.

To get an idea of just how long the secret tunnel is, in the picture below the door is where the tunnel eventually ends. At the very top of the picture, partially obscured by the clouds you can see my fortress, and the height where the tunnel begins.

I have plans for expanding the fortress by building a sky walk to an adjacent mountain. In addition I want to possibly build sentry towers. My excitement really is a gauge of how entertaining a sandbox game like Minecraft can really be (and how nerdy I can be).

With an open world, limitless options (both constructive and destructive), and an easy to use interface- Minecraft is a good example of how much fun a simple game can be when it prioritizes a player's imagination as an integral part of the game experience.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What's all the buzz about Minecraft?

If you're like me, you've been hearing references to the new game Minecraft all over the internet. If you're a fan of web comics you may have seen it referenced in concurring strips from the popular web series Penny-Arcade.

I decided to check into the game and find out what all the buzz was about for myself.

A waterfall in Minecraft.


First, upon arriving at a dilapidated website for Minecraft I was greeted by a message explaining the condition of the site. Apparently a surge in popularity overwhelmed their servers, resulting in them having to go with a bare-bones webpage just to stay online.

After a few seconds I had the game downloaded, and as I often do (for better or worse) I jumped straight into the game without doing any research about how to play.

The game world is pretty massive.


The games controls are pretty intuitive. The "W" and "S" keys move your character forward and back respectively, while "A" and "D" strafe left and right. The space bar makes your character jump.

In addition the "I" key will open an inventory where you can view any items you previously gathered. Items are gathered by walking over them. In addition this screen allows you to craft new things. I use the vaguest terminology possible when I say "things" because the range of items you can create in this game is extremely vast and impressive (but more on crafting later).

Your view and the direction your character moves is controlled by your mouse, while right clicking (holding it down) with your mouse interacts with anything in the environment (usually destructively).

Gather wood from destroyed trees.


When you begin the game, you are plopped down into a massive world full of trees, animals, ore, plants, and (as you find out at nightfall) horrific creatures like zombies, skeletons, and spiders.

Unless you enjoy zombie encounters, avoid caves like this.

The key aspect to this game and its world is that everything is destructible. The trees, the ground, the rocks, and even the animals can all be bludgeoned into smaller, usable components. THIS is where the game gets interesting.

Create a workbench!

By smashing up trees you can gather wood, which can be turned into lumber using the inventory, which can then be turned into sticks. From this point a player can craft a work bench which allows the creation of chests, swords, pick axes, shovels, ladders... virtually anything!

Creating a shovel.

In addition to the multitude of things craft-able from wood, the game also features iron ore which can be used to forge armor and weapons, all at a forge that you make!

Prepare to spend your first night hiding in a make shift shelter.

These weapons and armor are needed, because at night the lands of Minecraft become overrun by monsters. Be prepared (specifically on the first night) to be hunkered down in a makeshift shack as zombies attempt to eat your polygonal brains!

Yes, this is a zombie.

And yes, he wants to eat your face.

The amazing amount of freedom the game allows is refreshing. Players can choose any path they'd like. Some people have produced works of art using the game world, while others have erected massive fortresses.

I'm currently in the process of building my own fortress, and will post pics when it's ready!

With no defined goals, the game truly is limitless and has massive potential as an entertaining time sink. I can already see myself losing far too many hours to this game!

Check out the game at:


Lava is hot...

I ain't sayin' you're a gold digga'... but you should be!



Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Graphically-Challenged @ Paladin-Bias #4

That's right, ANOTHER graphically-challenged comic... it's almost like they're part of some sort of series or something!


The Most Annoying Abilities in WoW- March Madness Style: Part 3!

Hello there! Today Paladin-Bias returns to a (somewhat) normal schedule after the craziness of PAX weekend. Today I present the third installment in the ongoing tournament for the title of the most annoying ability in the World of Warcraft.

The last post featured Mind Control narrowly edging out Psychic Scream to be named the most annoying ability for the Priest class, earning it a spot in the final bracket. Today we're going to stick with another cloth wearing class, and take a look at the most annoying Mage abilities.


Mages are the prototypical caster in the Warcraft universe. With their ability to wield the powers of arcane, fire, and frost mages are well adapted for unleashing a barrage of DPS. In addition to their offensive ability, Mages are equipped with multiple buffs, invisibility, invulnerability via Ice Block, Polymorph, and the capacity to freeze an opponent in place while simultaneously teleporting away. Their numerous crowd control techniques, combined with their damage output make them a frustrating foe on the field of battle.

For the Mage bracket there were A LOT of annoying abilities to choose from, so I decided to feature four abilities that are unique to the Mage class. Ice Block, Polymorph, Spell Steal, and Mirror Image will be facing off for the title of the most annoying Mage ability and ultimately the chance to be named the most annoying ability in WoW.

The first round of the Mage bracket features Ice Block against Mirror Image. Mirror Image allows a Mage to make clones of itself in the attempt to confuse an enemy, while providing extra damage. The idea is great on paper, but it rarely, if ever, confuses any opponent and the DPS output of the images is weak. On the flip side, we have the Ice Block ability which provides a Mage with complete invulnerability while they surround themselves in a giant ice cube. The frustration of watching a Mage "chill" inside of their fortress of solitude while reinforcements arrive is an extremely annoying sight, and enough to move Ice Block into the second round of the Mage bracket.

Next we have Spell Steal facing off against Polymorph. Spell Steal grants the Mage the power to literally steal a buff from an opponent. This can be extremely frustrating when using a powerful ability like Avenging Wrath. And Polymorph is the familiar CC ability of the Mage class, granting them the ability to turn opponents into one of several animals while they line up a powerful attack. Granted, Polymorph can be very frustrating when you're getting chain-sheeped, however, the ability breaks with any damage and can be dispelled. So for this first round the win has to go to Spell Steal, for its uniquely annoying ability to flip the tables on any fight.

The final round pits Spell Steal up against Ice Block. The offensive capability of Spell Steal can be a game changing attack on the field of battle if used with the right timing. On the other hand, Ice Block can utterly frustrate an opponent, and it is often used in conjunction with Evocation after attacking enemies direct their attention elsewhere. So, despite its practical offensive ability, the timing required to pull it off effectively (combined with competing with the sheer frustration of Ice Block) means the title of most annoying Mage ability will not be going to Spell Steal. The winner by TKO- Ice Block.

So after the third preliminary round, this is how the final bracket is shaping up:

As the third class to enter the competition, Mages slide into the second position on the top half of the bracket.

Check back soon for more results in the tournament of the most annoying Warcraft abilities!


Friday, September 10, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pax Prime Pics (and Swag)

Dumping some extra pictures from the Pax trip!


It appears a T-Rex is ravaging Las Vegas!
Giant dinosaur!

An archer.

Green screen glory.

At a convention far, far away...


He said he was evil Link, but he doesn't look evil...

23 get back here! Arghhh, so hard to find dependable henchmen!

The Guild Wars 2 propaganda wagon (kidding!)

I have come from the future to pwn noobs.

No touching the Tron bike!

Free swag!

Frozen in carbonite and made to shill for some dance game. What a cruel fate...

Random game.

Look at all the frickin swag I got!

Monday, September 6, 2010

PAX Prime Reflections!


Pax Prime is officially over and several strenuous flights, long drives, and timezones later I've arrived home with a wealth of knowledge and pictures to share.

The convention itself was an amazing experience. The magnitude of the event is hard to imagine until you actually see it for yourself. Massive displays, rooms full of gamers playing console and computer games against each other, and tons of giveaways and swag- are just a few of the defining features of the event.


Before I get into the rundown of my trip, some words of advice imparted to us by the airline... Despite picking our seats online for the flights, we weren't seated next to each other. This was explained to us by an airline representative who let us know that when ordering tickets at a site like Expedia, Priceline etc. the airlines pretty much ignore their seat requests. So if you actually want decent seats, after you order online, call the next day and confirm seats directly with the airline. So that is some free advice for anyone reading this- advice I wish someone had shared with me (you'll see why in the next paragraph...).


I left Thursday afternoon from Philadelphia with Izari from GuildMag and we made our way to Houston, TX where we had a brief layover. I had the pleasure of being seated directly next to a crying, kicking, annoying child for the entire flight- so I can confirm that sitting next to a child on a plane is exactly as horrific as everyone always jokes about it being.


From Houston we shot northwest to Seattle. The flight was devoid of crying children, but I was fortunate enough to sit next to someone who lacked basic hygiene.

Upon arriving in Seattle and meeting a friend, we grabbed a taxi to our hotel. The ride was pretty quick, but ended up costing over forty dollars. So my second piece of free advice- research ahead for methods of travel, since the two dollar light rail that goes from the airport to a few blocks away from your hotel is way more affordable than that taxi.


We arrived at the Hyatt and were sufficiently impressed by our room. It was a very comfortable, and modern space with beautiful decoration and it was extremely close to the convention center (one block away!). An interesting feature in the room was the inclusion of seemingly Asian influences. For example our bathroom had a sliding door with no handle or lock. It was an interesting experience using a bathroom with no lock on it, and while there were no unfortunate incursions during our stay, if you value privacy the room may not have been for you.


For our first night in the city, we decided to go for drinks. However after wandering around for upwards of an hour looking for a bar, we settled for a Chinese restaurant, which happened to be practically the only place that was open.


When Friday rolled around, we were all excited to get a jump on the convention. We rushed over to the Washington State Convention and Trade Center to get our hands dirty. My first impression was "Wow, this place is massive." Around every corner droves of gamers, nerds, and geeks were experiencing the sites and sounds of hundreds of booths showing off the latest games, equipment, and merchandise. The size of the event was truly awe-inspiring.


Our first goal was to check out the Guild Wars 2 exhibit for GuildMag, the community magazine. The group of fans surrounding the GW2 display was intense. We arrived in time to see them showing off one of their much anticipated dynamic events. For those unaware, in GW2 traditional quest text is gone, replaced by dynamic events that you will witness and participate in (or ignore) altering the game world based upon your action (or inaction). The throng of people were glued to the monitors as an ArenaNet representative battled centaurs that were attacking a village. One of the most interesting things for me, the players lucky enough to be using one of the test screens were actually part of the demonstration, fighting alongside the ANet rep. on the giant screen.


The culmination of the battle involved one of the centaurs summoning a massive earth elemental. To say the scene was beautiful would be an understatement. Debris including rocks, dirt, and even wagons begun spinning in a vortex, slowly taking the shape of two massive hands pulling themselves up from the ground. The players immediately sprung into action, unleashing all of their abilities to bring down the creature before it could fully materialize. The scene was truly impressive and certainly inspired some drooling among the fans in attendance.

After the display Izari hung out to wait in one of the lines for a shot to play the game, while I wandered aimlessly just taking in the sights of the event. I grabbed my swag bag and picked up some various pins and lanyards while traversing the crowds of people.


I found out about a chance to get Warcraft loot cards, and I immediately jumped at the opportunity to spin the free wheel. Mt first spin netted me a pinata card, after purchasing some starter decks I earned a second spin and won a Lando's Lootbox card... which I subsequently dropped and lost (/depressed). Interestingly the girl in line after me didn't play WoW and won the turtle mount loot card. So needless to say I bludgeoned her to death with a chair.


We also took a few minutes to check out Two Words II and Battle vs. Chess for Xbox 360. The chess game was actually pretty interesting and it had a ton of mini games to teach new players how to play chess. Two Worlds was a typical hack and slash RPG, but I was impressed with how dense the environment was- loaded with plants, trees, bridges, and fog- definitely a lot to see. Unfortunately the graphics looked like they were from the PS2 generation. After playing we got two of the best looking free shirts at Pax, with the assurance if we wore one we would be able to get two more shirts over the course of the weekend.


Later in the evening we decided to hit up the PC freeplay room (picture a room stuffed with computers and gamers all playing some of their favorite multi-player games across a LAN network). We played some Starcraft 2 and I got destroyed as usual. Eventually we had to leave because they were starting a tournament, so we headed out for food. Outside we got to check out a Dungeons and Dragons display and grab some free D&D themed Jones soda.



Saturday morning Izari headed off to the Guild Wars 2 dynamic events panel where she and the other fans lucky enough to attend got to speak with developers and even potentially help design one of the dynamic events (see photo below, courtesy of Izari).


After I woke up I went back to the convention center and went on a swag crusade. All told I ended up with roughly fifteen shirts. I played The Gig, another game in the Guitar Hero/Rock Band genre, the selling point of this game was that it used a controller that was much more similar to an actual guitar, with strings you needed to hold down and actually strum with a pick. Overall it was actually very enjoyable to play, and felt very rewarding to be playing with something that didn't feel quite so much like a plastic Fisher-Price toy. The selection of music was actually right up my alley too, with a lot of alternative selections.


I also gave a few MMOs a look, playing Lord of the Rings Online and Rift. LOTR was fun to play, although it was pretty typical of the genre so I didn't spend much time on it. As a reward for playing their game, I was awarded some autographed maps and things, as well as the One Ring! I immediately nerdgasmed, fainted and awoke several hours later in a PokeCenter.


Rift was an interesting game mainly for its graphics. As with LOTR it was pretty typical as far as the content, but was a lot of fun to look at. The sky was especially beautiful- it featured what appeared to be shooting stars or comets and a massive burning object in the distance. I walked away with two rift shirts for playing hehe.

I also played the real time strategy game End of Nations. As a fan of RTS games EoN looked right up my alley, but after giving it a shot It was pretty bland.

After gaming a bit we headed back to the room to dump swag, and Izari had to check in for GuildMag on her computer. Plus, we had to get ready for the exclusive ArenaNet party we had received tickets for earlier after we introduced ourselves to the ArenaNet team as members of GuildMag.


We walked down to the Hard Rock Cafe and headed up to a private area where the ANet party was being held. We had some drinks, some free food, and hung out a bit. The party was a great opportunity to mingle and rub elbows with members of the ArenaNet team that are working on GW2. Everyone was extremely personable and obliging of the fans. They signed autographs, chatted about numerous topics, and enjoyed a few drinks.


Eventually Izari and myself struck up a conversation with one of the level designers on the ArenaNet team- Stephen Hwang. We had a great discussion covering various topics. The only topic that was really off limits was the release date. I tried my best techniques to try to pry any kind of inkling about when they intend to release the game, but he was stalwart and unmoving- not even willing to offer a year they hope to have the game done by.

Topics jumped around a bit, he was fun to chat with very interested in hearing about GuildMag. We talked a little bit about the fan mag, gave him our cards, and moved onto talking about where we were from. When we told him we flew across the country to be here, he was sympathetic (being from Boston himself) and went so far as to say he felt we deserved a tour of their headquarters. I think my eyes must have lit up like the sun when he said that, because he added that unfortunately he doesn't have the power to invite people there (damn!).


The conversation switched direction and we talked about how great the game is looking and how he felt the reception had been overwhelming. He was very grateful for the fans they have, stressing that for some reason they have been extremely lucky to have fans that are helpful and compassionate amongst themselves and with the developers. Izari asked if he felt like that vibe would change with the assured influx of new fans based on the buzz about the game. He mentioned that he felt the free to play format also contributed to the quality of the fan base, and that he was very optimistic about the new players.

"Your other MMO doesn't have to be jealous of us."
-Stephen Hwang, Level Designer, ANet

It's well known that the team is comprised of gamers, several that play other MMOs, so we talked briefly about this. His view was very interesting and didn't show any competitiveness towards the other companies. He seemingly embraced their position alongside the other MMOs as essentially an underdog at this point, while still alluding to the complimentary relationship between the games saying, "Your other MMO doesn't have to be jealous of us."

I also took the opportunity to ask him about his impact on the game, and where fans could see his personal touch. He said that as a level designer you really don't get to see your work in the game, but did mention that he had a lot to do with the Ruins of Surmia, (although he was quick to point out that he had nothing to do with Prince Rurik, lol).


Being from Boston, we probed to see if they were going to be at Pax East, (now confirmed by but we didn't get a confirmation. Steve called over another ANet employee to give us a chance to hard-sell them about going to Boston, he couldn't tell us whether they would be there or not, but he was able to confirm they will be attending the New York ComicCon!

After chatting, Steve took us around the room and introduced us to several more members of the ArenaNet team. It was truly a great experience and it felt very cool to be getting such great treatment as fans. ArenaNet truly won points in my book after experiencing the fan friendly atmosphere of their party. And for people wondering, the release date for GW2, in the words of the team, "When it's ready!"

After hanging out awhile, we headed up to the console freeplay room for the remainder of the night, where I tried teaching Izari some Halo 3. I taught her the finer points of being run over by a mongoose, sniped from a ledge, kicked off of a ghost, and teabagged (hehe).


Sunday was our last day at Pax, so we headed back to pick up some swag we had missed, and some shirts we could only get on Sunday. We also grabbed Collector's edition copies of the Rain Slicked Precipice Penny Arcade item that were being handed out at one of the booths. In addition I finished my Pax scavenger hunt to get another shirt.


We used the day to go take a look at the space needle, which I had to see while I was in Seattle. It was definitely worth seeing and taking pictures with, although we decided not to pay the ridiculous prices to eat there.

Izari had a friend from across the Canadian border visit, so I let her use my badge to see Pax for herself, and while the two of them explored I crashed in the hotel room- completely worn out from the trip.

Our last act in Seattle was to go for some drinks and food and say goodbye. We packed our now bulging bags and hopped on the light rail towards the airport. We stopped for a beer at an airport restaurant, but after seeing their prices thought better of it.

From Seattle we headed to Chicago on a miserable, long flight.


We arrived in Chicago Monday morning after skipping several timezones, and from chi-town we flew into Philly and began the drive home. Practically delerious from jet lag I somehow managed to drive us home where I immediatly passed out.

So my Pax adventure has come to a close. It was an amazing experience, and something every true gamer should experience at least once in their lives.