April 29, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

So, does anyone know why Azeroth is about to get Cataclysmed?

I did some checking (go, Research Hawley, go), and after a little hunting on the official European site, I discovered that Azeroth is to be Cataclysmed by a big gnarly drrrrragin that’s been hiding deep in the bowels of the planet.

When that drrrrragin decides it’s safe to come out (the smart money is on September), it’s bye-bye Azeroth as we know it…

But I must admit I’m a little disappointed that it’s *just* a big drrrrrragin.  Blizzard’s world is crazy, cartoony, and a few other things beginning with a “c” and ending with a  “y”.  It is most certainly larger than life, so reverting to the old trope of “A drrrrrrrragin did it” just seems so… Dragonlance.

Is there is such a word as “Cataclysmed”?  I don’t know, but I have been pondering other causes for a world-destroying Cataclysm than “Oh noes! A drrrrrrragin did it!”:

That big spaceship crash. Did anyone think to find out what sort of power supply/engine/makes-spaceship-move-thingy that a large Draenai spaceship used before the pilot completely failed that whole reverse parking manoeuvre?  And did anyone check to see if it was, y’know, safe?  Not leaking explodey-fake-science goo anywhere that a spark might set it off and, oh, I don’t know, trash the planet?  I’ve seen Star Trek; those engines are lethal.

A goblin did it.  With a  gnome. No, not rumpy-pumpy (you dirty-minded lot.  I feel bad for your mothers) but Science!  Yes, Science!  Everyone knows that both goblins and gnomes are obsessed with engineering, and everyone knows that both goblins and gnomes end up with unintended results far too often.  Aaaaand there’s all those bombs.  Little bombs for throwing, big bombs for lobbing, bombs for bomber planes to drop, bombs for… umm… other bomber-thingy-creatures to drop.  And of course there’s an arms race.  Is anyone monitoring these mad engineers?  And is anyone ensuring that they don’t start talking to each other, and swapping notes?

It was like that when I found it. Yes, the classics are quite often the best.  That’s why they’re classics.  Besides, when something is broken, really broken, there’s just no fixing it.  So if superglue and duct tape won’t fix it, then blame definitely won’t.  Let’s just move on, and deal with what we have left.  Without asking where I was when it all went Cataclysmy.  No mum, I wasn’t playing ball games in Azeroth.

Regardless of the reason for the Cataclysm, I must admit to a certain amount of vicarious evil-tourism.  Yes, I have been visiting those zones I hated and have hardly returned to, just so I can look them over and giggle at their impending doom.

That’s you, Azshara.  That’s you.



The Wol Project

April 28, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Tuesday is for Fallen Earth, so last night saw me logging on for a session of post-apocalyptic living.

Now, the last couple of weeks have seen me struggle a little in Fallen Earth, and that’s largely due to Hawley being stuck in the doldrums.  With Hawley, I’ve been playing in the manner of a young, sugar-obsessed child in an All-You-Can-Eat sweetshop, with all the hyper-active running about and attempting to do everything at once that implies.

Hawley’s been crafting everything he could, been off gathering anything not nailed down (as well as farming the things that weren’t; pesky critters) and running through quests and quest areas that seemed like a giggle at the time.

Fallen Earth is great for that.

But because of that, Hawley is in a bit of a pickle.  He needs about a week of tidying up, sorting out his quests and quest locations, sorting out bank and bag slots, sorting out training and all sorts of sundry little things that, quite frankly, I’m too lazy to do right now.  Too much sorting.

Hence, The Wol Project.

Wol is an alt I had previously created, and had previously taken through The Dam tutorial.  Yes, I am so alt-tastic that I even feel the need to create alts in a game which has no character classes, and no particular need for a defined role in which to prosper.  I am bad, I know.

Last night I went through a large chunk of the extended tutorial.  I didn’t get to go through all of it for a number of reasons (some of which are old ones where Fallen Earth is concerned);

Time was short due to some unforeseen real-world intrusions.  Such is life.

I kept getting side-tracked with exploring.  And it’s one of the reasons I love Fallen Earth; I’m running from one tutorial quest-giver to another, or running off to go and beat up prairie chickens (big, evil mutant prairie chickens WITH HANDS!) when something will catch my eye, and I’ll deviate from the shortest path to go and investigate.  It takes time looking at post-apocalyptic points of interest, you know.

Then there’s that well-documented method of travel in Fallen Earth; from resource node to resource node, gathering as we go.  Well, it’s how I travel in Fallen Earth.  I really find it hard to leave something I can lever up in any online game, so the fact that Fallen Earth really, really wants me to grab all the resources my grubby little mitts can get to is great.  But all that hoovering slows me down when travelling.  I might have to get blinkers for when I have to travel *in a rush*.

I kept reading the quest text.  Yes, Hawly Quest-Reader.  If anything, the quality of Fallen Earth’s quest texts have meant that I’ve started to read more than just the bullet points in other games.  I care a little more about the story reasons for going to do something, rather than just the cash and xp benefits.

But the Wol Project has started, and shall continue.

Does the Wol Project have a purpose, you ask?  Go on, ask.  I have an answer prepared, you see, and the the next bit would seem a bit pushy if I just volunteered it at you.

Ta muchly, I’d love to answer your question:

I’m going to play Wol for a bit because I like to think I now know enough about Fallen Earth to be a lot less random about playing it.

I’m going to see about having a little structure in my post-apocalyptic gaming.  I now have a much better idea about how to play, and what avenues I can pursue to attain gaming nirvana.

I’m also going to try a few things in depth, that I only vaguely looked at with Hawley:

Combat.  I did enough combat to survive, or get just what I needed.  With Wol, I’ll see about getting a bit more fighty, and see about getting combat skills rather than just flailing wildly.

Questing.  I’ll see about organising my questing a little more, completing the bulk of quests in one town before moving to the next.  Hopefully, it will mean less random wandering between towns, and therefore less time travelling.

Skills.  Hawley is more than just a tad crafting-focused, so I’m going to see about getting more than just crafting done with Wol.  I might even find some time for those strange Social skill things.  It might be nice to pay less at vendors.

Of course, there’s a high likelihood that I’ll get past the extended tutorial and then just go and be just as random as I am with Hawley, but that’s why this is a project.

It’ll be fun.


LFD and me

April 26, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I had my first experience of the Looking For Dungeon tool today.

I’d been putting it off.  Really, I had.  I love instancing; it’s by far and away my favourite activity in MMOs.  Throwing myself and a trusty band of leet-death-hero-ninjas into a den of evil and fighting the good fight is just purest cool.

So you might imagine my trepidation when approaching anything that might replace those thoughts of purest cool with “gogogogogo” and the sole intention of farming the instance as quickly as possible.

Having been informed that the LFD groups have a better attitude when levelling, I decided to go with Skooge for my first attempt.  Brave on a number of fronts, I felt.  It’s a long, looooong (yes, that long) time since I went into an instance with a dps class, never mind a dps class made of tissue paper.  Skooge is also carrying quest rewards, rather than anything punchy like phat epixxx, so his dps is going to be looooow.  Finally, out-of-practice-and-badly-equipped Skooge is a dps class, so is therefore easily replaceable…

It was the middle of the day, and being dps I knew there would be a delay.  Seeing as there are plenty of quests for a level 70 rogue in Northrend, I was quite fine waiting 30 minutes for the panel to flash up asking me if I was ready.

And a short while later, I was back in the queue because one of the dps slots decided not to come.  Four attempts later, we’ve got a full group.  Each time, it was a dps position that decided not to come, and I’m thinking it was because they’d queued and then gone afk due to the long wait, died of boredom, or decided there was no chance they were going to go adventuring with Skooge.  Or something.

Anywho, we’re in a dungeon.  I’ve no idea which, seeing as I’d not been there before, and I didn’t catch anyone saying which one it was.  It had those viking-styled chaps, and wolves.  It reminded me of Preston on a Saturday evening, about the time the pubs shut.

Now, as part of a giggle, I decided to install Recount.  It was there when I was installing a couple of other useful mods, and whilst I think people spamming dps lists is purest bad form, it is useful when I’m trying to eke the last bit of dps from poor little Skooge.

Well, Recount told me I was wrrrrrrrubbish.  This is understandable; green quest-reward shivs and gear, a talent spec that was thrown together in moments, and a severe lack of practice at dishing out the pain in instances meant that I was dead last, with Recount giving me a dps in the mid 700s, with even the dual-wielding warrior-dps a clear 100 dps above me.

My shame was not to last, though.  The tank had decided to keep running and pulling, despite the poor tree-lookin’ drood running out of mana.  The first time the tank took a dirt-nap there was moaning and shouting, and the drood told him that no mana means no heal.

Yet shortly after the first boss, the tank goes sprinting off without seeming to check that the rest of us were with him (never mind the tree) and is quite understandably taking his second dirt-nap a few seconds later.  Cue crying and a toy-pram interface failure, and the tank leaves the group.

After a short while, the instance is over.  Big fat servings of Damp Squib Pie for everyone.

It was instructive at the very least.  It was also gigglesome, but not in an especially good way.

I’ll be coming back to the LFD tool, but not necessarily immediately; I might see about getting some instancing in with a more forgiving, less PUG-angry set of people first…


Does the War(craft) mean anything anymore?

April 23, 2010 at 7:30 am | Posted in General | 2 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

I’m beginning to wonder whether the War in World of Warcraft actually means anything any more.

It meant something in Warcrafts 1 and 2; an RTS works better when there’s combat to Real Time Strategy about, so that was lucky.  And I must admit, my enjoyment of Warcraft 2 was vastly enhanced by the whole “beating up the other side” element.

I didn’t get to play much of Warcraft 3 (I got annoyed by the whole Arthas’ fall plot; when you’re the only person on the planet thinking you’re doing the right thing, but everyone else says it’s a really dumb thing, maybe it’s time for a little introspection.  Rather than throwing a tantrum about it), but I do remember that when World of Warcraft launched it was set during a sort of cold war at the end of outright hostilities.

I also heard a rumour that the language divide was not originally in place.  That in Closed Beta members of the Horde and Alliance could communicate with each other freely and easily over the same chat channels.

However, people being people and players being players, this communication just descended into insults, bullying and name-calling to the point where it was just switched off.

Rumours being rumours, that might well be pure toss, and that Blizzard always planned to have a language divide but it did make me wonder if that was one of the reasons why there were so many areas where the two sides could mix, and quest-givers that could communicate with both sides.

There is a part of me that’s nostalgic for those early days.  Shouting; “For the Horde!” and having it mean something.  The various and numerous battles fought over Tarren Mill.  A few fantastic barneys in Ashenvale.  Deciding that Undercity and Orgrimmar were better than Stormwind and Ironforge, and the arguments to prove or disprove it.

Of course, even Original Warcraft had portents of what was to come; the Argent Dawn was horribly ecumenical, and the “race” to open the gates of An’Qiraj seemed like far too much of a joint effort to me.

This was both sides working together for a common goal, and such plots seem to have been a theme for expansions; the Aldor and Scryers were a personal choice in the free city of Shattrath.  The Argent Dawn and the Ebon Blade are both equal opportunities employers, and Wrath of the Liche King provided a rather effective and strident reason for the cold war to end:

The Scourge is coming back.  Let’s go and get our retaliation in first.

What will the future hold?  Well there’s the Cataclysm.  In the event of the world being torn asunder, would there be much point in continuing hostilities?

I wonder if the war will ever return.  World of Warcraft has become easier and easier to play in recent times, and I’m wondering if one day Blizzard will just get rid of the language divide, and allow players to group up regardless of whether they’re Horde or Alliance.


Seven Days of the Skooge

April 22, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Wouldyebelieeeeevit?  I go and sort out a core hound pet- umm- authenticator thingy for my account (and gosh! I also get a free core hound pet!), but whilst I’m there I find that Blizzard want to give me 7 days free game time seeing as what I’m such a good customer and they really miss me!

Wahey!  Maybe they’re feeling generous after all the sparkly ponies that they sold.  Or maybe they really do miss me.  Personally, I don’t mind about them selling sparkly ponies, or ugly little robots, or even comedy miniature versions of big scary bosses for real money.  In a brief joining of the dead horse flogging bandwagon, Hawley loves free stuff and subscriptions, but doesn’t really like paying out for any extras, be they sparkly or even just shiny.

However, Hawley does not mind how other people spend their money, nor does he care how companies choose to make their money.  Hawley might choose to take his business elsewhere if the company starts to really take the p0ss, but similarly Hawley cannot comment on how other private individuals spend their money when he tends to spend his pocket money on model aircraft and miniature armies.

That concludes the party political broadcast for the Hawley Not Minding Party.

Back to Skooge.  Y’know, this free seven days is a lovely opportunity to see if Skooge is more fun than he used to be, and if I’ll be wasting a tenner on a month’s subscription to see about getting him to level 80.

Before the world ends.

I have had a brief blast, and found that I’d forgotten how to play a rogue.  Not that playing a rogue is the same as it was in the past; quite a few things seem to have changed.

And it doesn’t help that I was attempting to play a rogue as if it was a restoration shaman.  That lack of self-healing can be a real kicker.  Once we’d stepped over that little issue, and remembered that the pointy things go in the monsty, we were capable of moving on and discovering that being a whirling dervish of daggers and bones (Skooge is a bit undead, but doesn’t mind) is a lot of fun, if a tad psychotic.

It also gives me the opportunity to have a looky at things like the dungeon finder thingy, and possibly throw rotten fruit at Arthas, dependant on whether I can catch him popping out to the shops for some milk.


Not breaking news.

April 21, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Posted in General | 3 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

I must be mellowing in my old age.  It’s that, or Blizzard have rather effectively groomed me (Mummy-mummy, the software company touched my account in a bad place) when it comes to the Authenticator.

I remember my initial response to the change to accounts, and being all negative about it until I realised that an Authenticator doohicky would not actually be required to log into World of Warcraft, just recommended.

I also remember thinking that the £6 they were charging for an authenticator was just mean-spirited if they were going to be mandatory.

Then I found out that I was (thankfully) wrong, and that the main impact for me was a change of logon/account name.  In all likelihood it was to enable me to fully integrate into the Blizzard digital empire, rather than just remain as a serf in the kingdom of World of Warcraft-vania.

A couple of days ago I reinstalled World of Warcraft, and thus the latest part of the Ballad of Hawley and started.

I just wasn’t thinking about authenticators, or even accounts.  I was actually thinking more about playing a loremaster in Lord of the Rings Online, seeing as that’s what I was doing rather than just watch an installer do its thing.

But once everything had installed, I was left with a launch screen with a most enticing offer…

Get your account authenticated; get a free mini core hound pet.

I really like the core hound model.  That two-headed dog-thing is just plain made of makeshawleysmileinium.  In point of fact, I like the model so much that I tried to get the Kurken (shaggy core-hound) trained with my Hunter, but seeing as the Hunter was level 11 and didn’t have the fancy pet trait to allow me to train the exotic models, I couldn’t get it.  Big tears were shed.

It’s just a sweetener, and it’s not like it will be unique, but it does mean that I decided to look again at the awful horror that is the Blizzard Authenticator.

When my account was set up, I did look at getting the mobile phone version of the authenticator.  But despite there being literally meeeellions (tens) of different models that could download the authenticator, there wasn’t an Android version.  Yes, Hawley does Android.  Wait, that doesn’t sound right.

But now there is an Android authenticator, so what Blizzard have done is make it *easy* to get an authenticator, and therefore *easy* to protect my account with one.  That sounds good to me; I am a slacker after all.

I also believe that people shouldn’t be punished for doing the right thing.  Getting an authenticator makes it harder for nasty people to hack my account, so why should I be punished by having to pay for it?

So I get an easy and free way to get an authenticator, no reason not to use it, and a core-hound to call my very own.  Mellowed out or effectively groomed doesn’t matter.

I think I’ll get my account authenticated.


Normal service resumes

April 20, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment

Wotcha everyone,

Well, if my Big Fat Experiment taught me anything, it’s that self-denial just is not for me.  Especially when I deny myself the opportunity to partake in something I really enjoy.

But it did allow me the chance to take a step back, and ponder what it is about gaming that I really like, without the need for phat epixxx to get in the way.

The Mental:  Whether it’s PvP or PvE, MMOs have a huge puzzle element to them.  The most obvious part is raiding, where finding the way to defeat a Boss can be all about deconstructing and then solving the puzzle of where to stand, what abilities to use, and where and when to do it all.

But there’s also the puzzle of how best to set up your character’s traits and abilities, how to set up an effective UI, what the best rotation of skills and spells to take out a particular mob is (because you need to kill 4 meeeeeellion of them for a quest/trait and you don’t want to take all year).  And then there’s the puzzle of working out the best gear to carry/wear for the role you want to play.

This puzzle solving can be overt or covert, but it’s one of the things I really like about MMOs.  Rather than sit back and let the game sort every last thing out for us, we get to make decisions.  Decisions that can mean the difference between success and failure.  Decisions that keep Mr Brain active.

The Social:  The image of the lone geek, playing MMOs at all hours from the comfort of his parent’s basement is a popular one (especially in the media) but I’m not so sure it’s all that valid.  The gamers I tend to meet are witty, smart and most of all social creatures.  Maybe I’m just lucky.

I usually find that any game is vastly improved by social groupings.  An average game becomes good.  A good game becomes fantastic.  This is because good company makes any endeavour more enjoyable (whether that’s fake worlds or real worlds).

The Ease:  MMOs are easy.  When it comes to just getting in and playing, there’s none of the effort needed for so many real world hobbies.  There’s no having to set anything up before play can start, and there’s no tidy-time at the end.  The only time you need to arrange people is when you want to arrange a specific group activity such as raiding; usually you can just go on and see who else is around.

They’re so easy that we don’t even need to keep track of the rules ourselves.  The game engine does all that for us.  All we need to do is get on and play.  And we can usually do that in moments.

Yay for us.

Of course there are plenty of things that are bad.  Bad game-play, bad design ethos, bad fellow players.  But it’s nice to realise the good things, to remember why we play the games we do.

And it’s great to be playing them again.


Saturday: Acceptance

April 17, 2010 at 8:47 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment

Wotcha everyone,

It seemed remarkably simple to just state:  No computerised gaming for a week.  But the reality is that my initial thoughts of pc and console were foolish, as computerised (as opposed to good old-fashioned board gaming, or wheel and stick gaming) is a lot more than Call of Duty and World of Warcraft.

It used to be that leaving the pc meant leaving the games.  That without a cumbersome desk-bound bit of kit, there was no chance of computerised gaming.  Suffice to say, this is not the case any more.  For a start, there are more gaming options than ever before, ranging from the all-powerful pc, through mutliple consoles, down to laptops, netbooks, handheld games devices, and finally to mobile phones.

With them come a vast array of games and games styles.  We are surrounded by gaming, at every point in our waking lives.  And I’m sure someone will figure out how we can game in our sleep soon enough.

Gaming is also prevalent in society.  It used to be that when the pc was switched off, all thoughts of gaming ended with it.  Not any more.  Not only are there plenty of mobile devices either designed to, or capable of, running games, but gaming has entered the public consciousness.  Games get discussed socially, and by non-gamers.  Take any two iPhone owners, put them in a room, and watch them compare and discuss the games and apps on their iniquitous little devices.

Boy, have games reached the public consciousness.  I’m pretty sure that even 10 years ago the advertising campaign for a game comprised of adverts in games magazines and a website.  Nowadays, it’s huge hype machines putting adverts in all sorts of magazines, multiple web-based campaigns, and even film-style trailer adverts on television.

We are surrounded by gaming, and this has surprised me.  Going cold turkey used to be easier, as gaming was a niche endeavour for geeks only.  But the geeky kids grew up, became part of general society by getting jobs, mortgages and kids, and the industry followed them.


Friday: Aieee! Claw-hands destroy Tokyo! Aieee!

April 17, 2010 at 11:24 am | Posted in General | Leave a comment

Wotcha everyone,

Friday was a fun day.  I do believe it was the first day where I was less obsessed with gaming than with something (anything) else.  Yes, I just wanted the working week to end and the weekend to start.  In that, I was most assuredly not alone.

And boy did I want the weekend to start.  I might have a great job, but a lie-in is a lie-in.

Other than that, surviving a day of no-gaming was easier.  I’m still really, really looking forward to rejoining the fun, but it was easier to resist the call.  I was no longer hoping that I’d catch a nasty terminal disease that could only be cured by playing MMOs constantly.

Are there any diseases like that?  Well, I don’t know about that, but it’s worth bearing in mind that my hands are starting to seize up into arthritic claws.  It’s probably because I’m not keeping them constantly moving between keyboard typing, trackball and CyberSnipa gamepad thingy.  And various console controllers.


Well, at least claw-hands are good for scaring any potential burglars.  Or local children.  Or friends.  Or destroying Tokyo.


Thursday: All work and no play make Hawley a dull healer

April 16, 2010 at 6:19 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment

Wotcha everyone,

All work and no play make Hawley a dull healer
All work and no play make Hawley a dull healer
All work and no play make Hawley a dull healer
All work and no play make Hawley a dull healer
All work and no play make Hawley a dull healer

So, Thursday was slightly less rocking in the corner and crying inconsolably at the pain than Wednesday was.  It’s just the feeling that all your mates are off having fun without you which is the kicker.

Human Beings, of which Geekus Superior is one branch, are social creatures.  And whilst Geekus Superior is often derided for their supposed lack of innate social ability, there must be some or we wouldn’t socialise around MMOs.

To many, the most popular image of the guild is The Raid Guild.  A group of individuals whose sole reason for joining and participating is to get through the content, to get to the juicy trez at the end.

Yet that’s not the only incarnation of the guild, and I’m not even sure it’s a popular one.  I’m pretty sure that Raid Guilds are easily outnumbered by Casual (or as I like to think of them; Social) Guilds, and then there are the Role-Playing Guilds.  And there are still plenty of Micro Guilds, populated by a few real-life friends.

I’m pretty sure that most people join a guild because of the perceived benefits to themselves.  That would be easy access to other players that will allow them to play the game in the way that they enjoy.  This might well mean the chance to go instancing or raiding without having to rely on PUGs, it might mean the chance to hang out with mates in a place other than the pub, and it might mean more people to find out all about your character’s secret history as Sauron’s top assassin (before they changed their ways, and now only use their leet ninja-death skills for good).

Okay, cheap gag at the role-player’s expense there.  Sorry.

Regardless of our initial reasons for joining a guild, there’s always the fact that once we’re in, we revert to our social imperatives, and we make friends.  We might not make friends with everyone, but we’ll make some friends, and they’re the ones that contribute to a fantastic gaming experience.

Downing a raid boss for the first time isn’t about one person, it’s a group endeavour, and it’s right that the group should celebrate it together.  It’s a community moment.  But that’s not the only community expression there is in the world of MMO gaming; just logging on and saying “Hi” is taking part in the community, and as it’s that sort of community I most certainly missed on Thursday.


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