Oota Goota, Solo?

November 30, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Posted in General | 2 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Further to my wondering about the proposed classes for Star Wars: The Old Republic, I had a further ponder regarding the class choices.  I suppose this is because, despite Scarybooster’s amazing scoop (almost literally, by the looks of it.  Laugh?  Mmm, muchly did I, to quote a well-known Jedi Master), I’ve not seen much hard and fast actual information.

And, because of the way my mind works, I don’t ponder what *actual* abilities the classes will have.  No, I don’t.  Therein lies madness and disappointment.

I do ponder on their choices, though.  And why they made them.

Let’s talk about the Smuggler.

It’s sometimes known as The Han Solo Effect.  Han Solo is believed to be, by many, the coolest character in the Star Wars movies.  He cracks wise, he wants to know who put you in charge, and he shoots first.  Sometimes.  Well, he used to shoot first.

Talk about Smugglers in a science fiction setting, and most people immediately think of Han Solo.  And because of Han Solo, there’s the association between Smugglers and Heroes.  Smugglers *are* Heroes.  Due to their strong anti-authoritarian beliefs, they fight against evil and oppression.  They are natural rebels, the best pilots in the galaxy, they all own really, really cool space ships, and they’re all gunslingers.

Mal Reynolds wouldn’t exist without Han Solo.

So it’s only natural that the Smuggler class would be on the Republic side.  Han Solo is a good guy, so he’d be fighting against the evil Sith Empire too.

But…  Han Solo is just one Smuggler.  And he’s not exactly fighting with the Rebellion on behalf of smugglers throughout the galaxy.

Now, I’m no legal expert, but I do recall hearing somewhere that smuggling is an illegal activity.  Maybe that’s why it’s not called; “Trading”.  I suppose all that avoidance of paying customs taxes, declaration of income, and transferring goods past sanctioned embargos is a bad thing, and one of many causes of corruption.

And here’s the rub; how do Smugglers fit into The Republic, it being the bright and shining example of law and order?  And taxes.  And customs.  And not crime lords?

I’m looking forward to hearing the rationale for this one, Bioware.



The Shape of Things to Come?

November 27, 2009 at 6:03 pm | Posted in General, RMT | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I’ve been thinking about In-game Pre-order Items a lot recently.

It was the pre-order for Siege of Mirkwood that really brought this from a back-of-the-head simmer to a front-of-head ponder.  And, after many brews and much pondering, I reckon it’s time to ramble at length about how I currently feel about pre-order items.

Tied heavily to this are my views on Real Money Transactions.  Whether that’s buying gold from a 3rd party, or from an in-game cash store, it’s still parting with real money for in-game benefit.

And I suppose that’s where my issue lies.  At least on the surface.

I pay for a game so that I can play that game.  It’s a simple transaction.  In the case of a subscription based game, I then pay that subscription so that I can continue to play the game after the first month.  Any other justifications are our own; at the basest level, we’re paying for permission to play.

MMOs are released by businesses, and a business exists to make money.  So they make that payment as attractive as possible.  This means periodic content updates, as well as server maintenance and upgrading.  It means ironing out the bugs, and improving the polish on the product.

They also want to make sure that they get as much cash as possible, and one upshot of that over the last few years has been the rise of the pre-order item.

There used to be a strange sort of prissiness about pre-order items.  They had to be cosmetic only, as any sort of in-game bonus would destabilise the natural order, and earthquakes would destroy the planet.  Or something.

Then power-creep started, and suddenly items with tiny bonuses were on offer; soon after, it was items with good bonuses, or mounts, or more character slots, or pets, or faces, or all sorts of items that collectors (who are a big chunk of the MMO gamer pie chart) would want for the sake of completion.

Suddenly it’s not enough to just buy the game; we have to buy the game early enough, and from the right places, to take advantage of the best pre-order offers.  Quite often that means getting in early enough for a Collector’s Edition.

For the businesses releasing these games, it’s a great thing.  It’s their best opportunity to make the most money in the shortest amount of time, and they are doing their utmost to make the most of it.

Now, if I was the conspiracy sort, I’d comment that pre-order items were a highly successful form of consumer grooming.

I remember discussions where cosmetic items were justified and allowable because they were purely cosmetic.  They were a way of “thanking” those players who were in from game launch, without giving them a horrendous advantage over those who started playing later.

Nowadays, no-one even sniffs at stat-bonus pre-order items.  How long will it be before armour sets and weapons are offered?  Full set of purpz at 60?  Suits you, sir!

They’re fantastic sweeteners.  And because we get used to getting them as part of the game bundle, we get used to thinking of in-game items at the same time as spending real money.  And if we do that, we end up feeling that it’s ok to spend real money, and get those items at the same time.  From there, it’s a short step to buying them from an in-game shop, using real money.

More and more games will be heading down the Real Money Transaction route.  But at the same time, we’re all supposed to hate the black market that has sprung up around MMO gaming, and all the chances of losing everything that we work for in these virtual worlds.

Well, one way of killing the Black Market stone dead is to offer those same services in game.  Can’t be bothered saving up 4 meeeeeellion Filthy Lucres for that mount?  Buy it from the in-game Cash Store.  Want that funky Sword Of A Hundred Painy Dooms?  Well, you could raid for it and hope it drops, or you could just work an hour’s overtime and pick it up from the RMT Armoury.  Need to be at a certain level to go instancing with your mates?  Buy levelz from the Admin Store.  Instant, painless, and most of all it’s unlikely to end up with you finding all your characters nekkid and your current account maxed out at the overdraft end.

That’s one end of the scale.  We’re already at the other end, which is paying for content.  I’m not talking about the “free” content that comes with the subscription, but the content that comes as part of an expansion.  That would be a paid expansion.  “Some” content should be free, but “Enough” content can be paid for without complaint.

Now, I can be fantastically stingy when it comes to games.  I will happily pay for my subscription every month, but boy do I hate it when I feel like I have to part with real money to experience “some” content.  Yet I’ll not only happily stump up some cash to pay for an expansion, I’ll actively look forward to it.  I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that.

As a society, we’re now willing to pay for digital content.  As in, something that cannot be held, except on a hard drive.  We’ve gone from paying for a music on a disc, to music that we download.  The same is happening for games and films.  And with the advent of streaming services, we’re stepping even further from our standard concepts of “ownership”.  Will we soon look at in-game items in exactly the same way as we look at downloaded music from a certain fruit-named behemoth?

It’s one of the reasons why I’m looking at Pre-Order items with more and more antipathy.  Even Single player games are getting in on the act; Dragon Age: Origins was shipping with so many options and Pre-Order items that I just ended up feeling confused and slightly dirty from checking them all out.

I miss those nice and simple days where I paid my money, and I got a game.  I didn’t feel that I had to buy a game from a particular place, or at a particular time, otherwise I’d be STUPID for missing out on such FANTASTIC offers.

It’s probably my fuddy-duddy gene getting all nostalgic, or maybe it’s seeing all the changes that seem to be appearing (or at the least worried about), and wondering if the games we used to play will be gone, in the face of casual-friendly drop-in/out MMOs; all free but with shark-like cash-stores circling around…

I understand that cash-stores in games mean that we could all play our MMOs for free, and only pay for what we *want* to play or use, but I still can’t help worrying that this just opens us up to the Land of the Grind.  Because if the only way for the game to make money is from Real Money Transactions, then surely they’ll make games which make most use of it?

There’s a lovely little saying: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Maybe the road to heck is paved with pre-order items.


Fallen Earth lands

November 26, 2009 at 10:58 am | Posted in fallen earth | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

It’s as if the universe at large has demanded I play Fallen Earth…

I post on one day that I’m going to get Fallen Earth (but I’m a little cash poor at the moment); the next, Fallen Earth is half price on Steam. Now that’s what I call customer service!

No, I’m not getting paid to advertise that. Honest.

I actually found this out just before going to bed last night, in one of those; “Oh, Steam wants to update. I wonder why?” sort of ways. Well, I must admit it was all I could do not to immediately buy it there and then.

I’m going to stop now, in a Hawley In Short Post Shocker! (Full post on page 7) sort of way, because it’s not really in my nature to want to do any marketing machine’s work for them. I just wanted to do my little happy dance that it’s half price.

Cheers, Hawley.

PS: Thanks to Jamesy, who commented in yesterdays post. Appreciated.

T’was the night before Payday…

November 25, 2009 at 4:38 pm | Posted in General | 2 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Today, as I write this, is Wednesday.  Tomorrow is Payday.

To everyone else getting paid tomorrow, Happy Day Before Payday!

For a whole three minutes, I shall feel rich.  Beyond my wildest dreams rich.  Of course, after those three minutes various standing orders, transfers and direct debits go out, and I am poor again.  But what a glorious three minutes!

Regular readers (both of you) will also be aware that for the next 11 months I am cash-poor as I need to save every penny I can, or be horrendously in debt forever.  Probably.

Regular readers will also remember that I decided after my brief and free flirtation with Fallen Earth that I would wait until payday before deciding whether or not to buy it.  The reasoning is simple:

I don’t have much cash. It’s not a case of not being able to buy *any* toys this month, but if I am going to blow my limited budget at the beginning of the Salary Month, then I want to make sure I’m buying the right game.  As opposed to Dragon Age, or Modern Warfare 2.  Or Left 4 Dead 2.    Mmm, heavy weaponry goodness…

By spending the time to think about it, I’m doing the equivalent of wandering around the toy shop looking at everything before deciding what I really want, rather than buying the first shiny toy that catches my eye, but isn’t what I really wanted.

I’m also worried about falling back into the MMO Tourism trap.  I find misguided brand loyalty to be a bit silly, and I’ll quite happily walk away from something if I’m not enjoying it, but I’d rather be sure of whether I’ll enjoy Fallen Earth or not before I start spending money on it.  I enjoyed my time in the free trial, and that sense of enjoyment hasn’t faded in the last couple of weeks.  In point of fact, when I heard about the latest free trial, my first thought was; “Cool, free game time”, rather than thinking of it as another chance to see what the game was like.  Which I’d like to think is a good sign that I’ll enjoy the game for longer than the first four weeks.

Free trials are good.  I like free trials.  They’re both free, and a great way to get a look at a game.  I’d say they’re far, far better than a beta test for finding out about a game, as what you’re playing is the finished product, rather than a work in progress that may or may not be representative of what will be released.  You also get to interact with players, rather than player-testers, in a free trial, and that can make all the difference in an MMO.

Yes, I want Fallen Earth.  It offers a wonderful opportunity to experience a different way of playing than that offered by most available MMOs:

  • I can bimble my way around.  It’s not a fully sandbox world, but it’s closer to it than most of the modern crop of MMOs, and that means I’ve much more choice about playing the game the way I want to.
  • I can indulge in some meaningful crafting again.
  • I can beat mutant chickens to death with a lead pipe.


I, Jedi?

November 24, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

There’s been a lot of discussion recently on the proposed classes for Star Wars: The Old Republic.  I’ve been checking out Darth Hater and Bio Break, but your browsing may have been elsewhere.

As Syp posited, it seems that out of 8 classes, a nice round half of them are light-pipe wielding force-monkeys.  That means Jedi or Sith.  Now, because I’m a bit lazy, I’m going to refer to both Sith and Jedi under the term “Jedi” for the rest of this article.  I’m fully aware of their differing beliefs and philosophies, but quite frankly I think typing “or Sith” a few hundred times for the sake of the pedantic will destroy my soul.  There’s not much of it left, and I’d like to keep what I have.

One of the fun things about life is that we don’t get to decide who we are.  We are born into our station in life.  Boy, girl, rich, poor, it’s all random.  In a game, we create our characters, as if we’re Professor Membrane with our own little “Clone your own You!” kit.

At that point, birth is not random.  It’s not an accident.  It’s a fully perpetrated act of creation.

Let us, for the sake of argument, pretend for a few moments that the events within Star Wars really did occur a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

Those born with the requisite genetic bits to become Jedi are rare.  Then they also need to be discovered by the Jedi Order, and taken off to become Jedi Knights.  There is a huge, teeming galaxy full of people, with only a small percentage able to use the force effectively enough.  So Jedi are a very small part of the population; you definately have to win the genetic lottery, then the lucky break lottery.

In a game, all the rules of random birth are thrown out of the window.  It’s so un-random that we’re even assigned a limited choice of character types; no brewers of blue milk here, thank-you!

And out of that limited selection, half of the choices are Jedi.

Tangent time:  Let’s imagine the situation.  Some characters are in a room:

  • I’m a Jedi me.  I get to shout Wom! whilst carving stuff up with my uber lightsaber, and with my leet mental acuity I get to levitate stuff, and throw stuff about.  And I’m dead good at acrobatics and leaping about.  What do you do?
  • I’m a Smuggler.  I get to…  smuggle stuff.
  • Oh, so you hide stuff?  Isn’t that like tidying?  Because tidying is hiding stuff, isn’t it?  Tell you what, you tidy up the ship, and I’ll go off and adventure?  Can I borrow your Wookie?
  • Hey, don’t mind me, I’ll just brew up some blue milk…

In the films, Jedi are all-powerful.  It takes another Jedi to take one down effectively.  That, or a heavily armed squad of clones who get the jump on a Jedi, on account of the Jedi thinking they’re on the same side.

Even in the Original Trilogy, the signs are there.  It’s Obi-Wan and Vader fighting each other in A New Hope.  In Empire Strikes Back, Vader makes Solo look like a chump as he casually “Talk to the hand”s Solo’s best quick-draw.  CoolAsFuck.  And in Return of the Jedi, it’s three Jedi in a room, bitching each other up, whilst everyone else is off picking on each other.

Jedi fight Jedi.  Norms fight Norms.  It’s a two-tier galaxy, kids.

And here we are, looking at a game that seeks to emulate those films, and we’re surprised that half of the classes are Jedi?  In a way, I’m surprised they’re not all Jedi.  Because given that Jedi are far more powerful than everyone else, who would want to intentionally gimp themselves?

Jedi fly better than everyone else.  They shoot better.  They hit people with wom-sticks better.  They ride anything.  They drive really, really well.  They take pain better.  They are neither clumsy nor random.  They do, or do not.  They never try.  Anyone else might be a specialist, but Jedi are just plain all-round fantastic.

So how do you create non-Jedi classes in a Star Wars world, without:

  • Rendering them pointless, because they’re so underpowered in comparison, or
  • Rendering the Jedi farcically weak?

Game balance is one of those fantastic things that really, really eats the soul out of an Intellectual Property.  It’s rare you find an author that thinks of game balance whilst writing.  And any one that does is probably not putting a good story forward; would Dune work if Paul Atreides was balanced to the same power level as Duncan Idaho, or maybe Gurney Halleck.  How about Stilgar?

Same for Star Wars.  So to be honest, I would perfectly understand if only Jedi classes were available, or if no Jedi classes were available.  Because I’d prefer that to Jedi being intentionally gimped so that there were less complaints that Jedi were too powerful.

Of course they’re powerful.  That’s the point.

I don’t envy Bioware.  They get to try and create a game with a horde of angry Star Wars fans dissecting every decision.  The Lore-Monkeys will scream at them for every game-balance choice.  Theory-crafters will shout at every lore-based choice.  And the Original Trilogy fans will shout because it’s set in some weird non-movie-canon period of time, instead of a perfectly serviceable Galactic Civil War.

From a personal point of view, I really couldn’t give a flying slice-hound for what BioWare do, as long as the game is good.  I’ve grown up with the Star Wars films, and they have made me the geek I am today.  They are now, and will always be, my favourite films.  Everything that uses the Intellectual Property, such as books, merchandising, and games, is based on the films

They are not the films.  They never will be.

If I want the experience of the films, I’ll get them and watch them.  I don’t read a book or play a game.

Good luck, Bioware.  May the Force be with you.


End of the world, you say?

November 23, 2009 at 8:59 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Cataclysm. It has quite a number of people all excited, and good play to Blizzard for that. It’s the biggest overhaul of a game in play evah!

Well, other than the entertaining farrago that was Star Wars Galaxies’ “New Game Experience”. Which was definitely new, and definitely an experience, and it was a game. It could also be described as a Fiasco, and in that it shares something with the Second Crusade.

Sorry. Digressing already.

So, it’s the second biggest overhaul to a game in play evah!. Yay!

It’s exciting, it really is.

Of course, it has meant that I’ve stopped thinking about playing World of Warcraft. There doesn’t seem much point in playing the game right now, seeing as the countdown to all your gear is now rubbish is running, and levelling alts would be a bit silly seeing as all (or most of) the zones are supposed to be changing.

I’m not sure that was part of Blizzard’s intentions, but hey, I’m pretty sure that Blizzard will survive and even prosper without needing my subscription every month.

I’m also glad that Blizzard are willing to take that much time and effort to change their world environment that much. I’ve been reminiscing about World of Warcraft before The Burning Crusade expansion, and to be perfectly honest I’m surprisingly nostalgic for those times. Certain things I will not miss, but the freshness of the world, the learning process, and a certain lack of scepticism made for a gaming experience that wasn’t as jaded as my gaming is now.

I’ve also been pondering whether or not I will get Cataclysm. Just as for Wrath of the Liche King, I won’t be there on launch day: There was a tad too much carnage for me the day The Burning Crusade went live. I just don’t want to share a zone with meeeeeeeellions of players again. No thanks.

I was thinking of firing it up after a couple of weeks, when the initial rush has died down. Gigglesome, it could be. Seeing the new(old) areas, and having a mooch around seeing how things have changed. As well as trying one of them Worgen thingies out. And vaping things with my leet shaman powarz. That sort of thing.

But I do have a couple of issues that I’ll need to resolve before I decide whether or not to grab Cataclysm.

The first, and most important, is that despite the fact that zones are being recreated in cataclysmic fashion, the game-play is not changing. Levelling might be new and improved thanks to fresh content, but that’s just new content on an old style of play. Is it still going to be killing cockludgers and grabbing boxes of cornflakes?

The second is that I’d feel really, really ghoulish logging in just to see the changes. Hey, this is a disaster zone. Not even the promise of disaster relief quest chains would make me feel better about essentially logging on to be a disaster tourist. By the way, I don’t know if there are disaster relief quest chains. But… Icky and wrong!

There’ still a big part of me that’s excited and interested to see how World of Warcraft will change as a result of the Cataclysm, though.



Self-sufficiency is for other people

November 20, 2009 at 12:40 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,
Back in the mists of time, I discovered I was an Altoholic.  Yadda-yadda-long-story, and I’m still and altoholic.  I like them.  I love my primary  characters most, who these days tend to be called Hawley because I’m too lazy to think of other names any more, but I love the change of pace that an alt can bring.
One of the reasons I loved creating and playing alts was the ability to see what all the crafting professions were like.  It was fun playing around with them, and it gave a certain sense of self-sufficiency, in that I didn’t have to scrabble around in poor gear, or with no potions.  There was always an alt who could help out.
Of course, in time I looked around, decided that so many crafting alts was far too expensive, and that there just weren’t enough hours in the day to try and keep them all going.  Plus the Hawleys, being primary, were always levels ahead of the alts.  Which meant that they had to do all the hard work, levelling up in gear that relied on drops and quest rewards, and then handing all the cash they make over, to pay for alts to level in much more comfort.
There was a change.  It was helped in part by the realisation that crafted gear really wasn’t as good as it could, or should, be.  It was there for easy access whilst levelling, but not after.  So all that money spent on levelling crafting skill, all that time and effort gone into gaining those recipes, and then grinding my way through entire EEC-grade mountains of raw materials, and for what?  An upgrade on the first instance run?
No, no thanks.
There was a shift in policy; the crafting game had lost its shine, so gone were thoughts of self-sufficiency.  In their place were thoughts of dependancy.  Yes, dependancy.
Me deciding not to craft wasn’t going to make a gnat’s gnadgers difference in the crafting output of the server.  But by me not crafting, there were a number of benefits.
First, I could go all-out node-crazy.  Suddenly, all my alts were gatherers.  Made life much easier, as suddenly I could travel by going from node to node.  Travel on the ground suddenly had a purpose other than just wasting my time, and causing me to get into random fights.  I didn’t need the actual raw materials, so they just sat in my bags, accruing over time, until as if by magic there were a few stacks.  Yay!
Second, it was a reason to interact with guild-mates.  And members of raid communities.  And suchlike.  If I needed something making, I could ask them.  And supply them with the materials, or pay with materials.  It’s a win-win, as they get to use the crafting skills they’ve worked hard for.
Third, I was able to sell stacks of stuff to fund whatever it was that was needed.  Most of Shaman Herewerd’s flying skill was paid for by selling stacks of ore on the auction house.  As were the materials I couldn’t gather.  Money was far less of an issue.
Fourth, I could help mates out by chucking stacks of materials at them.  If I’m unlikely to need it, then why not?  It helps them out, and clears bag space for more gathering.
There were still just as many alts popping up in game, but rather than each one having their own little related crafting professions, now they just had resource gathering.  It even became a bit of a gag amongst some friends when they heard about a new World of Warcraft alt popping out: Was this one a herbalist/miner, or a miner/herbalist?
It’s something that’s unlikely to change any time soon.  All the new Lord of the Rings Online alts are gatherers, and that’s unlikely to change for any new game.
However.  There should always be a “However”.
Fallen Earth has made me wonder about the Gathering Only policy.  With its abundance of nodes, and it’s ever so wonderful crafting systems, I realised that crafting was what I’d play Fallen Earth for.

Fallen Earth: A new way of looking at things.

November 16, 2009 at 5:01 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Many years ago, I studied popular cultural theory.  It was an eye-opener, I can tell you that.  It’s quite scary how much we can be influenced by what we see or hear, and this course was the closest I’ve ever seen to a “How to take over the world” course, as endorsed by Pinky and The Brain.


The main upshot is that whilst I’ve forgotten much of what I learned (I’ve slept since then), I can’t watch or read anything without analysing it for any intended or unintended meaning.  My wonderful beloved-intended just starts rolling her eyebrows whenever I open my mouth when we’re watching something, especially if it’s something she likes and I find fault in.  She’s right; my days of watching something “just for the fun of it” are long gone.

You might be wondering how this little bit of rambly exposition applies to anything regarding Massively Multiplayer Online gaming.  Well, every so often some of the partially remembered theory decides to bubble up in my brain, and rather than being expelled as a brain-fart it allows me to remember the term for something that’s been niggling me.

The term I’ve been after recently was “Defamiliarisation”.  It’s a part of the literary theory of Russian Formalism, and for those who don’t want to go through the Wikipedia link, is all about using language to render the familiar, the unfamiliar.  Through new eyes we learn to see again, and all that.

Playing Fallen Earth has been what’s making the Formalism thoughts bubble up in my brain the last couple of weeks.  Here’s some reasons why:

Crafting Skill Books. Normally skills are an easy thing, as we’re spoon-fed through the early skills to get to the later skills.  But in crafting, I’ve been looking at skill books and wondering how and where to begin.  It’s daunting at times, especially when I can’t help feeling I’m going to make a mistake somewhere and end up buying something I can’t or won’t be able to use.

Healing Skills. We all know I loves a healer.  But right now, with the open nature of character progression, I’m not only wondering how I’ll be able to create a healing character, but if it’s actually possible to create a Healer Classique…  So rather than just going to a trainer and clicking on the shiny buttons to get my rationed-out skills, I’m looking at everything I can to see if there’s anything there that points to what I want to play.

Quests. I’d managed to start a quest chain at Embry, which was all about trying to alleviate, and possibly find a cure for, an illness which was plaguing the area.  I am bad at reading quests.  To be honest, most of the quest text in World of Warcraft could have been replaced with whatever was appropriate out of the following:

a) Kill 74 Lesser-Spotted Cockludgers

b) Fetch me a  box of cornflakes

And it’s not because most of the quests are the same, it’s purely because I can only read so much fantasy-based quest text before I just want to stop reading and get to the meat of the game.  Yet I’m finding myself drawn into Fallen Earth’s quest text.  Maybe it’s because of the change of scenery, or the fact that I’m treated as less of a hero than a zero.  There’s also the semi-sarcastic nature of many of the quest-givers.  Or maybe, just maybe, I’m following a quest-line that appeals to me; rather than killing lots of monsties because they’re annoying the quest-giver (that would be you, Aion) I’m gathering items and crafting things.  If I’m killing things, it’s for a decent enough reason for it not to be a random cull.   And let’s face it, any quests that result in me beating to death mutated chickens with a length of pipe can’t be all that bad.

It’s been a lovely change.  I’ve been playing Lord of the Rings Online with a new appreciation, and it’s taken the Fallen Earth free trial to do that.



Getting my tights in a knot

November 5, 2009 at 5:28 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Champions Online was opened up for a brief weekend’s worth of free trial action last weekend, as part of the Blood Moon event.

I have fond memories of City of Heroes (and later City of Villains), and quite enjoyed playing a number of different heroes through the early and mid-part of the game.  Ultimately I stopped playing both because there wasn’t enough depth to the game, other than; Get mission: SLAM EVIL!

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the odd bit of super-heroic ultra-violence; in point of fact I do.  So I jumped at the chance of a free trial.  Who knows, I might even sign up for a month or two; getting people to sign up is part of the whole free trial experience after all.

Of course, it really helps if a free trial is taking place on a weekend where you don’t already have plans.  On Saturday I was off viewing hotels.  Apparently, weddings are supposed to have receptions.  So off we go, spending an afternoon going to numerous hotels when I could be partaking in a bit of SLAM EVIL action.

Wait, no I couldn’t have.  Because Champions Online’s updater was a reminder of what MMO gaming was like before broadband…  For those born since 56k modems went the way of the Dodo, it was slooooooow.  Really slow.  I set off the game updater in the morning, confidently expecting it to have been more completed by the time we got set off for the afternoon, but no.  It was still running.  I left it to run while we were out.  It was still running by the time we got back.  And when it was time to go to bed.

I left it to run overnight, expecting it to be completed by morning.  I can be so trusting and naive at times.

Sunday was to be another fun-filled day for me, but this was actual fun, in the form of a geeky day spent table-top role-playing.  So that would be me occupied for the afternoon and evening, but hey, I’d get to play some of it during the morning, surely?

I can’t remember exactly how sizeable the whole update was, but it took about 10 hours to download just over 2gb of it.  My connection isn’t exactly a fat pipe, but it handles that sort of thing easily in an hour or so.  Maybe two.

This meant that I got to play Champions Online for about an hour on Sunday morning, before it was time to go and have fun.

Yes, this was a free trial.  Emphasis on the free.  And it may have been that their patch servers were inundated with traffic; in point of fact, there could have been any one of a hundred reasons for it being so slow.  I just find it funny that I spent more than half of their free trial attempting to just get to a point where I could have a look at the game.  It would be churlish to be offended.

As it was, I had enough time to rush through the character creation and outfitting, before seeing how much of the starter zone I could see.

Thus, Digby of the British Space Corps was born (again.  He was a character of mine in City of Heroes).  I couldn’t quite get the costume to the same ‘30s kitsch factor that that certain other game was able to, but I was in a rush, after all.  And it was close enough.

I then went off into the game, to finally SLAM EVIL.  I’m not going to write a review here, as that implies I got to do more than spend 30 minutes beating up level 2 and 3 mobs, and getting about 4 quests done.  Hardly representative.

This is more a case of me giggling at the situation.  Initially I really wanted to see Champions, and this was an ideal way to do it.  Later on, it was a sort of game in itself; would the updater finish before I had to go out for the day.

As a consumer, I always find it a shame when I have a negative experience with a company, as this makes me want to:

a)      Tell four people about it.

b)       Not use their products or services again.

I’m trying to be positive about this experience, rather than negative.  Yes, the free trial was a limited time offer, and over the course of the weekend my time was extremely limited.  If I’d not had prior plans, I’d have been able to spend a good few hours in Champions Online, and get more of a feel for the game. As it was, maybe the universe decided that I shouldn’t play Champions Online.

With luck, there’ll be another trial at some point.  And I look forward to it.



The One that Got Away (from me)

November 4, 2009 at 5:03 am | Posted in General, LotRO, World of Warcraft | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Wotcha everyone,

What is it with the current gaming obsession with fishing?

I am not a fisherman.  I don’t like the concept of sitting on the bank of a canal, freezing my bits off, being forced to drink Bovril from a nasty flask just to keep alive, whilst attempting to catch something, anything, other than a shopping trolley.  Only to just throw it back in, once I’ve caught something.

I do have positive memories of fishing.  Sitting on the bank of the Zambezi River, catching Breem and cooking them on a fire as they came out of the water, with a net full of beer and wine cooling in waters that would soon be tumbling over Victoria Falls.  Where the hazards were crocodiles and hippos, rather than freezing to death in English drizzle.

Admittedly, they are amongst my first memories, being about 4 years of age at the time, but I’m not altogether anti-fishing.  I can understand that other people can go out fishing, and really enjoy it as a hobby, as a past-time.

MMOs definitely aren’t anti-fishing.  Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online are big proponents of this sport of princes.  And now I’m hearing about fishing in Torchlight, which is admittedly not an MMO yet, but is to be the basis of one at some point in the future.

Hmm.  Fishing has always seemed to be a barely disguised time-sink to me.  It was wholly comprised of not-fun.  I gave fishing more than a fair chance; it was required for alchemy and cooking, and it was a “fun mini-game” to boot.  I pretty soon learned that for me, it wasn’t.  I could spend a couple of hours fishing for a small amount of gain, or I could spend that same couple of hours instancing, or running around making small change from monsties.

I’ve heard that it’s a wonderful change of pace, but if I want a change of pace from an MMO, I can play another game.  Or watch a film.  I’m just not an electronic fisherman, and never will be.

I remember when it wasn’t the case; when gaming magazines would ritually humiliate the various fishing simulations that would be released for the pc.  How times change.  Maybe fishing games need to start adding in monster-killing mini-games in order to get better reviews and more acceptance amongst gamers…

It also makes me wonder about hobbies in games.  Fishing was supposed to be the start of the hobby system in Lord of the Rings Online, but I’ve yet to see another hobby within the game.

I think one of the things that makes me wonder about the whole thing is that MMOs are supposed to be the hobby.  Why do I need a hobby, within my hobby?



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