Required: More hours in day.

February 26, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Busy life, multiple games.

Of course, I’d prefer a busy life to the alternative.  I’ve had periods of quiet life, and they are particularly boring.  And MMOs are no substitute for a social life.  More a complement to one.

So, my current issue is that I have three games that I’m particularly enjoying, but despite recent dual-monitor tests, I don’t particularly want to attempt to play more than one at a time.

Now, my usual Modus Operandi is to just fire up whatever tickles my fancy, and play that for as long as it’s still fun, or bedtime.  Whichever is first.  However, if I’m not careful I end up letting a game get all lonely and neglected, and I feel all guilty, so I try not to think about it, so it gets a bit more neglected, and suddenly it’s three months since I fired it up and I’m wondering what I’m paying the subscription for.

Thus, A PLAN.

Plans are good.  They can come in different types.  A’s, B’s, all sorts of letters, and you can even get 9 ones From Outer Space.  They are quite fantastic for organising what to do in a specific situation.

My plan is simple.  The three quietest, on average, nights of my week are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  So I shall devote one night to each game:

Monday is for Lord of the Rings Online
Tuesday is for Fallen Earth
Wednesday is for Eve Online

The rest of the week can be less regimented, because there’s still being sociable, or deciding to indulge in one of my nerdier passions, or even swapping a night over due to an in-game or real-life event, or some-such.

Each game gets one night a week to shine.  Thus none of them will be neglected, and I get to make the most of playing three games at the same time.

Can’t say fairer than that.

(I give it two weeks before I forget which night is which, and we’re back to the chaos.)



Invert my y-axis!

February 24, 2010 at 6:30 am | Posted in General | 2 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Just a quickie (oo-er, missus!) about Allods Online.  Yeah, I can be quick.  Sometimes.

Focus, Hawley.  Quick post.

Well, despite all the furore about cash-shop gouging in Allods Online, there is one simple thing about the game that will, with absolutely no doubt, stop me from playing.

I can’t seem to find the controls to invert the y-axis.

Just that.  Game killer, in one.  I need the camera to be like a flight yoke; forwards is down, backwards is up.  I was brought up playing flight sims, so that’s how my brain works.  Trying to play the other way makes me sea-sick in no time at all.

I’ve tried looking, but that simple switch isn’t there.

Ah well.


Cash Shop Ramblings

February 23, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I have not regretted purchasing Lord of the Rings Online’s lifetime subscription.  It was an investment, and whilst it might not have saved me as much cash as those who bought it at game release, I did manage to get it during one of their periodic half-price offers.

I like it because it means I don’t have to worry about the subscription going out of my poor beleaguered bank account.  It means that I can worry less about having various game subscriptions adding up and collectively crippling me financially.

In essence, I like the fact that paying  a large lump sum has rendered my game of choice, barring expansions, free.  This is different to paying for a 6-month or 12-month fee, as there’s always the spectre of that big payment coming up at some point in the future.  Usually 6 months or a year into the future, but constantly counting down…

And this is where Free-to-Play comes in.  There’s a part of me that sees Free-to-Play, and worries where the cost is.  And that’s why games such as Runescape, Allods Online, Umm, Thingy and Wossname are relatively unknown to me.

Yes, the only two Free-to-Play games that have managed to ping on my (powers of spelling, don’t fail me now) Gamedar are Runescape (because I knew some people who were addicted to it) and Allods, because of the blogs I’ve read that have posted about it.  The others sort of pinged, and then were victims of my goldfish memory.

I’m unlikely to want to try Runescape, but Allods Online has me wondering.  In my own befuddled way, I’ve investigated and found that there is no box price.  Seems handy, seeing as I’d be more than unlikely to invest £30 or so on a World of Warcraft clone when for the same amount I can have 3 months of game time.  This is possibly three times longer than I’d spend in a World of Warcraft clone…

But with no box price, and no monthly subscription, Allods Online could be a wonderful opportunity for some guilt-free gaming.  Playing as and when, with no worries about wasting money on a game.

It doesn’t look bad, and with it being a clone of a game I’ve already been playing for a few years, it looks like it will be easy and simple to pick up and put down.  Is this a good thing?  Well, it could act as a sort of sorbet for my MMO dining.  Good for a change, that sort of thing.

This is all, of course, without talking about DnD Online.  It seems to have gained the sort of respect and admiration as a Free-to-Play game that it lacked as a subscription title, and that’s in no doubt due to the fact that the cash shop is well stocked with things that players want, but don’t feel they need, and at more than reasonable prices.

Of course, that’s the thing:  A cash shop needs to have something that we as players want.  I’m not sure about you, but if I feel I *need* to purchase something, I’ll look for gaming where I don’t feel that need.  And finally, if something is a reasonable price, I’ll look on it reasonably.  Take the piss, and I’ll take the piss back.

Yes, we’re heading where many blogs have gone before, and that is Allods Online’s recent cash shop shennanigans.

I fear the possibilities of the cash-shop system.  I should be all early-adopter about it, but I like to think that my subscription allows me the opportunity to have fun and enjoy a game, with all parts of the game open to me.  But cash shops are the way of the future; Blizzard nailed that proof of concept with two vanity pets.

Which have a combined price equal to 6 bag slots in Allods Online.  Go figure.

When you look at it that way, those bag slots don’t seem so overpriced.  As far as I’m aware, World of Warcraft pets don’t carry anything for you…

Of course cash shops are going to try and get us to spend money.  It would be really, really naive to think otherwise (and if you do, I have a bridge to sell.  It’s in London, one careful owner; a granny who only used it to go to the shops).  Companies are there to make a profit for their shareholders, so the cash shop is a source of revenue.  And one that they will use ruthlessly, if they can.

At the moment, I tend to judge a game by how much good game goo it has.  But soon I’ll be judging a game by how much of an impact the cash shop has on gameplay.  If the cash shop is, in essence, selling a temporary *teh win* button, then I’d have to think really, really hard about whether or not to play.  Because if I need to pay to succeed, that’s not playing a game, it’s paying a game.

My time is worth a lot to me, and I’d hate to spend time on a game, only to find that I would have been better off spending that time on something else.


New, or just Improved?

February 22, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Posted in General | 4 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

I was recently having a ponder, and my mind wandered to Cataclysm.

Now, one of the reasons that I stopped playing World of Warcraft was that a short while before Blizzard announced Cataclysm, most of my play was levelling alts.  Shaman Herewerd had stopped raiding for documented reasons, and apart from the odd bit of herb and ore farming, he’d stopped running about the place in favour of some alts.

Then Blizzard goes and ruins everything by telling me that Azeroth is doomed!  Doomed!  And that after the Cataclysm, things will be Different.

If I had stayed, I might well have levelled all my little alts to the point where they’d miss out on the shiny new expansion.  Bah humbug to that!  One cancelled subscription later, and I now have a raft of characters at varying levels waiting for the ground to shake, for the heavens to fall, and for cats to start living in harmony with dogs before going back and getting some extreme levelling in.

Will anyone miss old Azeroth?  I won’t.  There’s already a few zones I wouldn’t bother going to.  I’ve always hated Azshara, and thinking about Ashenvale makes me make angry faces.  The Thousand Peaks is more like The Thousand Annoyances, and as for Ferelas?  Yech!  I know plenty who wouldn’t go to Desolace if they were paid (although, freak that I am I quite like the place), and I’d be more than happy to trade the few zones that I really enjoyed for a new set of zones if it also meant getting rid of loads of zones I really can’t get enthused about.

It’s a smart idea, it really is.

What we’re getting is a new levelling experience, instead of the boring old one.  Of course, Blizzard will be hoping that everyone will start at least one new alt, and go levelling through the new Azeroth.  After all, there’s no new balancing, no new skills, no new number-juggling that a new batch of levels would need.

Ooh!  Flying mounts can finally appear in Azeroth.  Redrawing zones to be seen (and interacted with) from the air is one thing, but creating zones from scratch to allow for flyers is completely different.  And possible to do without creating all manner of attendant bugs and glitches.

Personally, I’m hoping they also take a long hard look at The Burning Crusade, and see about improving that place as well.  Yes, I really disliked the way that the zones in Outland looked like they’d been Jackson Pollack’d onto a continent map.  I appreciated that Outland was a destroyed world, but please?  Can we have some sort of cohesion in look and style?

Ahem.  Matter in hand.  So…  Many talking heads keep wondering which game will be the WoW-killer.  Well, not that one is needed, but it looks like World of Warcraft is taking a swing at itself with Cataclysm.  Why?

Well, what do you get when you buy a new game?  You get the opportunity to create a new character, and level them up from 1st level to maximum level.  What do we get with Cataclysm?

We get a bunch of revised levelling zones, with an opportunity to create a new character, and level them up.  But even better than for a new game, Blizzard get to use the existing World of Warcraft, its engine, its visual style, its races and classes, and create World of Warcraft 2.  It will be like playing a brand new game, only you’ll also get the comfort of having your existing level 80s, and hanging out in Northrend for when you fancy a bit of uber-leet-death-raiding.  Or whatever.

Sheer, utter genius.

I do have one little query, though.  What’s going to happen to all those people who decide that they don’t want Cataclysm?  Are they going to be stuck in the (current) Old Azeroth (or even worse, frozen out of the game entirely)?  And if they aren’t, if they get access to the New and Improved Azeroth (or should that be: “Son of Azeroth!”), then what exactly are we paying for?

The only time previous to this that I can think of, where a game tried to completely revise itself rather than add on to existing content, was Star Wars Galaxies.  And we all know how bad that was…

Good luck, Blizzard.


What to do in the Barrow Downs when you’re (about to be) dead.

February 19, 2010 at 7:45 am | Posted in General | 2 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

For all my love of Skirmishes and skirmishing, I tend to be a bit lazy (big shock to both of my regular readers, I’m sure.  Wotcha, regular readers!) because most of my skirmishing is done solo as I level up my Hunter and Evil Captain alts.

Because I’m a slacker and they were both about level 30 when Skirmishes were introduced, I would go into the Siege of Gondamon as it was one of two available choices.  Tuckborough, being the other choice, tends to confuse me.  I get lost easily, even there.  So it was a lot easier to let the monsties come to me, and defence is a lot easier than attacking.  The available guards also help a lot, even if they do try their level-best to hoover away all my xp.

Since I got Hawley to level 65 and Lucky all trained up, I only tend to skirmish with him when there’s the offer of some hot group action.  Life as a Minstrel is more fun when it’s someone else you’re healing.  Or something.

So it was that I got to take a walk away from Gondamon (and all that lovely leet doomy-dps Hunter/Evil Captain action) and step into…  The Barrow Downs.

It was an attempt to put a 12 person kinship skirmish together, but it was a few people short, so some dropped out and we made a 6 person group.  Then we started discussions on where we wanted to go, and flushed with the excitement of going somewhere different, I kept jumping up and down shouting about the Barrow Downs until everyone else was too tired to object.

Bad Hawley.

Their comments regarding the difficulty just spurred me on.  If someone tells me we’re likely to survive 2 minutes, then I want to try, just to see if we can get to 5.  Maybe, somewhere back in time, one of Hawley’s caveman ancestors did Wrong And Bad™ things with a lemming.  Who knows?

As it was, my first trip into that particular skirmish was hilarious fun.  I like healing skirmishes, because with the preponderance of healing Skirmish Soldiers out there, many fights are quite easy for me.  And with those same Skirmish Soldiers not appearing in group lists, healing them is a case of keeping an eye out for their icons and topping them up every so often.

And when things go bad, they tend to go really bad.  Which is what happened after the 15 minute mark.  Too much fire, too much pain, and suddenly Skirmish Soldiers are dropping like flies, and I’m following them.

We survived to 17 or so minutes.  Seeing as the objective is to survive for an hour, that might not seem all that great, but I did have hilarious fun, and got to throw a lot of healing out in a short period of time.  Best of all?

No walking.  There is a fantastic pillar-like stone to stand next to/lean against, and that means little chance of getting lost.  Just how I like things.

After a bit of surprise at the amount of time we survived, we went off to go and defend the Prancing Pony.  Apparently some ruffians were taking umbrage at the amount of arrrrrrrr-peeeee that was taking place inside, and had decided to remedy this by burning the place down.

Resisting the urge to help them, I elected to join my fellows in defending the place.  Bree wouldn’t have as good a skyline without the Pony anyway.

Again, much fun was had.  A successful resolution meant being able to hold my head high again, after having it beaten low by a horde of the dead in the Barrow Downs.

It was a fun evening, and one that reminded me of how much fun group Skirmishes can be.  I had wondered at how often I’d be able to repeat them, but the gameplay is really nice, especially the defence scenarios, where managing resources is really nice.  It’s also nice that this is stress-free gaming; no worrying about messing up and ruining everyone’s night, as you sometimes get in raiding.


Thought for the day. Ish.

February 17, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Posted in General | 3 Comments

Wotcha everyone,

No, I wouldn’t usually have a Thought for the Day post.  Many who know me would state I’d be lucky if I had a single thought a week, never mind a day.  But hey, one has appeared.  And it is this:

I had decided I would not get Star Trek Online unless my mates got it, and stated that it was a fabulous game and that I should join in the fun.

It’s been a couple of weeks, and things are ominously quiet.  Does this mean that Star Trek Online is merely “OK”, and not actually fabulous, or does it mean that all my mates are playing a fabulously fun game, and giggling because I’m not there too?

I’m just too embarrassed to ask, really.



February 15, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

A busy life has lead to some neglected MMO characters (many called Hawley) and some abandoned MMOs.  Yet for all my enforced detachment from the intarnets, and not having the time to be able to say a proper (if temporary) goodbye to gaming, it’s nice to know that the real world has a place for me, even if I do keep trying to escape it…

I wasn’t completely without gaming, though.  Mass Effect (the first one, not the recently released sequel) on the xbox kept me sane through those times when I just had to get some gaming in.

And it did make me wonder on the nature of questing in MMOs, so there is a slight point (hopefully) to this ramble.

Years of World of Warcraft got me used to seeing golden-glowy exclamation marks above NPC heads.  Years of Lord of the Rings Online got me used to seeing all sorts of symbols, dependant on what I needed; a  golden-glowy ring (which is fitting to the subject matter, after all)  above an NPC head was as good as an exclamation mark.  Nowadays, checking for an icon, all Sword of Damocles in nature, above an NPC’s head is second nature whenever a new game is started.

It’s now part of the Language of MMOs.  Glowing marker indicates a quest-giver.

It has its uses.  With the predominance of quests, and quest givers, and all sorts of distractions and getting lost that MMOs give us, having some visual guide to help us find who to get quests from and who to hand them in to is really, really useful.

Mass Effect doesn’t have this.  It seems that single player gaming still requires us to actually find our quests by talking to all and sundry, and remembering where they are, who they are, and then talking to them to find out what we’re supposed to be doing.  And they don’t even talk in bullet points.

I’ve always liked Bioware’s adventures.  It’s just finding the time to play them that can be the issue; MMOs can be jealous creatures, and don’t like to share.  At least, I find them to be jealous of my time.

In Mass Effect, finding quests is part of the story that I’m playing through.  I go to a quest hub, find quests, do quests, and then move to the next quest hub.  In that respect, the gameplay is very similar to MMOs.  The difference is that of immersion; talking to an NPC to find out if they have something of interest to say, or a quest to give out, or even if they might advance a quest I’m on seems much more natural than going up to an NPC, pressing the Dispense Quest button, getting a bullet-pointed shopping list, and running off.

I’ve not seen Mass Effect 2 or Dragon Age: Origins.  I know lots of people who’ve looked at them, played them, enjoyed them, finished them, and studied them for any clues as to how Star Wars: The Old Republic might turn out.  But I like to finish my current Bioware game before buying the next, hence my slow but inexorable march to Mass Effect’s end.  This choice has meant that I don’t know if Bioware have chosen to change the way they present quests within their games; add the common belief that Bioware are testing the boundaries of MMO gaming with their latest releases means I don’t know if they’re going to change the way that we deal with quests and quest-givers.

I hope they do.  I’m finding that I like immersion.


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