Is Cataclysm World of Warcraft’s Last Hurrah?

December 31, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

The next year or so looks like it could be a period of change for MMO game-play.

Admittedly, I’m not the person to come to when it’s news about MMOs that you’re after.  I am barely capable of venturing an opinion in print, never mind backing it up with cold, hard facts based on proper research.

I’m a shoddy researcher.  When it comes to MMOs, I’d rather be playing than poring over the publisher’s website for hidden nuggets of information.  But, just like any good consumer, I don’t like getting stung by a retailer.

So I do a little research.  Not enough to feel that I can news-blog, but enough that I can feel comfortable partaking in the whole consumer/vendor relationship.

Currently, my research has involves going to an MMOs website and watching the trailers, after which I’ll skim down the “News” section and see if there are any articles that catch my eye.  Finally, I’ll see if there are any funky-looking screenies.  Loves a good screenie, does I.

Where does all this tie in with that title up there?  The contentious one, squatting like some particularly gargoyle-like gargoyle?

Well, virtually every site I’ve seen really, really wants to tell me that their game is Next Generation.

“Next Generation” isn’t, it seems, just a Star Trek thing.  As with all jargon, it’s a fantastically woolly term, that marketing men probably hope means all things to all men.

To myself, and when applied to MMO gaming, it means a significant advance in game-play.

That doesn’t mean a particular game was the first to include a particular element, and is no guarantee of innovation.  And to muddy the waters, there are those games that seem to straddle the generational divide, being a perfect refinement of the previous generation, yet including many elements of the new generation.

I’m not going to sit here, and profess my beliefs on how many generations there have been within the MMO genre, and I’m not going to state which games have heralded a new generation.

My main reason is that it would completely destroy a rather fun but thoroughly geeky discussion/argument that’s perfect for drunken evenings in the pub.  And I’d probably get it all wrong.

For all that, I can’t help looking at these trailers, at the hype, and think that the behemoths looming on the horizon might actually be the real deal when it comes to advancing the genre as a whole.

From all the hype gushing out, I can see two elements that, for me at least, signify the advancement of the genre.

First is the pre-eminence of story, and the personalisation of that story.  In the past, story has been on the grand scale, with players partaking in the grand story by taking and completing quests, but without any of it being of any real impact.  No story mattered (or even could matter) overmuch because the game world would be reset in ten minutes time.

In the future, story might well be freed from being tied to questing; I would imagine questing won’t be removed, or even sidelined, but unscheduled events occurring in and around the player, as well as content specifically for the created character, are making story important in its own right, rather than as something tied to a chunk of xp and some trez.

Both Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic seem to have this as a core part of their game design.  Having monsters actively participate in naughtiness, rather than hang around waiting for a player to enter their aggro range, is one of the exciting elements of Guild Wars 2.  And both games have spoken about having a tailored story for each class, resulting in a different game for every player.

Yikes, that’s exciting.

And whilst I think that, thanks to its marketing campaign, Rift is placing itself firmly in the “Ultimate Refinement Of This Generation” camp rather than “Herald Of The Next Generation” spearhead (that’s what happens when you keep saying you’re much better than the other guy.  Sorry.  Try saying that you’re just *that* good, standing by yourself.  You’d probably get my money then.  Oh, who am I kidding; you *would* get my money then), I can’t help getting excited by all this rift malarkey.

Rifts opening, monsties barging through, taking over an area, and having to be forcibly removed?  That’s just pure gaming jam, that is.  That’s “to be spread on toast, thickly” levels of nice.  In fact, it’s so nice it’s noice.

It makes the world feel like a world; what was supposed to make poor, doomed Horizons such a great game (Horizons is one of the few games that I wish had lived up to all of its aspirations.  It would have been so wonderful) was a changing game world, where player actions made a difference to the landscape.

Anything that aids immersion is good, in my book.  A more interesting world to game in, one that changes due to player action, is something that really makes me excited.  The Secret World’s attention to detail, with The Test (I’ve taken it twice now, and came up Templar both times.  There is a part of me that is vaguely worried that I’m becoming increasingly reactionary as I grow older) the Kingsmouth website, and even the zombie invasion of Kingsmouth trailer all serves to make the game world more immersive, and therefore compelling.

Suddenly the revamped levelling experience, the comparatively heavy use of cutscenes, and the nifty use of phasing seems less exciting than it used to.  Of course, it’s always hard for something that exists, that is currently available and has been experienced, to compare favourably with the fevered wish-dreams of this particular geek.  Of course a game in development is going to be amazing; they all are, especially when viewed through a Greener-Grass Filter.

But I can’t help wondering if Cataclysm is the last time that World of Warcraft will be the big fella; the one everyone looks to when an opinion is needed.  It’s hardly surprising, seeing as it’s now six years old.  I’m pretty sure that in MMO years, that’s older than most pyramids.

And seeing as World of Warcraft is very much of *this* generation of MMOs, it’s hard for it to be a part of the *next* generation as well.  The way that the game has been put together would make it hard to modify into the all-singing, all-dancing promises of dynamic worlds with dynamic events; it would probably be easier to just create a new game.  Quite possibly with a working title of something like, oh, I don’t know…  “Titan”?

Add in the seductive promises of enhanced story-telling (in a fourth pillar stylee), and it’s highly likely that, in a year or so’s time, we’ll be looking at World of Warcraft in the same way that we looked at the original Everquest shortly after Azeroth opened its doors:

As a bit tired, old fashioned, and worn around the edges; like those grand old fleapit cinemas filled with faded glory that we all abandoned shortly after the new multi-plex cinemas started appearing.

It’s a shame, but it’s also part of the natural order of things.  Old games get replaced with new games, in some sort of electronic evolutionary chain.  World of Warcraft will most likely be at least seven years old before all these shiny new temptresses sashay onto the shelves anyway, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy what World of Warcraft does best.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Old Stamping Grounds.

December 30, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I fired up Lord of the Rings Online the other day.  It needed patching, so I went and did something else whilst it patched rather than just stop it and play something else.  I then took Minstrel Hawley out of the box he’s been in since before Lord of the Rings Online went all free to play, and appeared in Bree.

I promptly stood in Bree, near the West Gate (I don’t know why, but I’ve always preferred the West Gate to the South Gate in Bree.  I think the view is better) and that was about it.  After about five minutes, give or take a few seconds, I logged off.

How times have changed, Lord of the Rings Online.  We used to be such mates, you and I, spending hours in each other’s company.  Everything you did just seemed right, and in so many different ways.

Your instances were the coolest, and the most fun I’ve ever played in.  The Rift of Nurz Ghashu is still my favourite raid instance, and probably will be forever.  It’s because of that place that I can proudly proclaim; “I kill balrogs, me”.

In point of fact, the balrog-killing mutton-chop moustachios that Minstrel Hawley wears have now been worn proudly in other games, as a permanent reminder of the fun I had in Lord of the Rings Online.

Yet so much has changed, in the short time I’ve been away.

It’s just me, I know it’s just me.  But everywhere I looked, there seemed to be an button to click on that would take me to the cash shop.  From the obscenely large one on the character select screen, to the (comparatively) discrete button on the end of the UI bar, to the notification that I had been given 15 points to spend in the store when I logged in, suddenly I was feeling oppressed and harassed by Turbine’s desire to get me to use the cash shop.

Yes, I know that this is how Turbine are going to fund the game from now on, and I know that they’re not the evil sort of free to play peddlers that have given us badly and barely disguised soft pornography-based advertising, but there is a part of me that rails at being sent an email that proudly tells me I’ve been awarded 4,500 points to spend in the store.

Or in hearing that there’s now a mount that’s exclusive to the cash shop, as well as other cash shop exclusives(!).

I’m wondering how long it will be before orcs tell me about any good deals that are on at the cash shop, whilst attempting to take Minstrel Hawley’s head off.  I have the fear, I really do.

Add in the fact that I have rightly been swept out with the guild broom of doom due to inactivity (which is something I approve of; I abhor guilds cluttered with inactive characters), and I’m just at a loose end.

I worry that anything I decide to do will have a price tag on it.  That anything I get invited to will have an entry fee, payable through the cash store.  That the game I loved playing for so many years has become some awful, pox-ridden slattern, brazenly flaunting her wares in the hopes of getting enough money out of me to pay for the next bottle of bathtub gin.

It hasn’t, I hasten to add.  But I worry that all of the fabulous memories I have of playing Lord of the Rings Online will be tarnished by New And Improved Lord of the Rings Online.

It’s a foolish worry, and I hate being foolish, so I shall find one of my neglected alts, and see about getting them out of the box and playing for a while, just for fun.  I’ll probably play solo for a bit, and see if it’s still fun just playing in the game world.  I’ll be able to see if it’s still Middle Earth, or more Midland Bank (I apologise to anyone who won’t get that bit of wordplay.  It helps to have been conscious in Britain in the early nineties to get that one).

Then I’ll see if we’re still mates, that Lord of the Rings Online and I.

Cheers,
Hawley.

The Inevitable New Year’s Resolution Post.

December 29, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Does anyone out there do that whole; “New Year’s Resolutions” thing?

I don’t.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a “No regrrrrets, dahlink!” sort of person, but neither am I the sort of person who will decide to make a potentially rash decision to run a marathon just because I’m feeling a little chubby on New Year’s Eve.  That would be the sort of potentially rash decision that would be made in front of all my mates who will hold me to it, despite me making the declaration whilst so inebriated that I’ve forgotten the word “inebriated” actually exists.  And who will prod me with sticks and cattleprods through 6 hellish months of training culminating in 26 miles-and-change of sheer, utter torture.

For the record I feel a lot chubby most of the time, but this is because I am fat.  I have a geek physique.  I have never made such a marathon declaration, but I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night screaming, having had the New Year’s Eve/drunk/marathon declaration nightmare.

It’s like the no-pants dream, just completely terrifying.

Moving back on track slightly, I’m hard-pressed to think of the last time I actually had a New Year’s Resolution.  This is largely because I’m aware of my limitations, the first and foremost of which is not my slacker nature, but is in fact my extreme forgetfulness.

(Being a slacker is my second limitation, for those who are interested.)

In the past, I would decide to change my ways/do more stuff/ramble less, only to forget two weeks into January.  Less of a Year’s Resolution, more of an accidental two week change in lifestyle.

In the light of this admission, I have decided to have some New Year’s Resolutions.  No, they’re not lifestyle choice resolutions, just MMO resolutions.  I shall try not to forget about them in two weeks time…

I will respect other players, and the way they choose to play.
You know, it’s not just the rrrrrrrrrrole-players that make me feel a little worried, it’s the HARDCORE! HARDCORE! players too.  In point of fact, I’m pretty sure that unless you play in *exactly* the same style as I do, then you worry me.
This is, however, wrong.  I am not the arbiter of style and taste in MMOs.  One of the reasons why MMOs are so wonderful is that they are a melting pot of playing styles, which in turn attracts so many differing players.  So how can I stand up and, in any way, shape or form, say; “You sir and/or madam, are doing it wrong.  Do it right!”
So, I shall endeavour to embrace my fellow MMO player, not in a stalker/follow-you-home/murder-you-and-wear-your-skin-as-a-suit sort of way, but in a typically repressed British sort of way.
Yes, I shall smile, wave, and wish you the best of luck.  I shall also endeavour to help you in your favourite playing style by not immediately deciding to whizz on your chips, by inadvertent or advertant action, gesture, or statement.

I will be zen about spawn/node jumpers.
I live in a large urban conurbation.  And it is a universal truth that wherever there are large urban conurbations, there are drivers who drive like [insert favoured insult here].  Driving became a lot less stressful for me when I decided to remain calm, ignore the road rage, and embrace the fact that some people are just plain rude, and therefore incapable of thinking of anyone but themselves.
Same goes for MMO players.  Some don’t want to think about the fact that there are other players, that given a short period of time that node, or that mob will respawn, and therefore they don’t need to act like a dick and steal kills or resource nodes.
And others will be incapable of thinking about their fellow player at all.
I will not get upset about it, I will just accept it as a fact of life, and in the same way that I accept the fact that it *will* rain, that pizza *does* make me fat, and that bills mean that I *can’t* spend as much money on toys as I want to.
Therefore, I won’t feel the need to tell players who are rude, unthinking, or just plain stupid that they are, in point of fact, a c*ck.  I shall just invoke the zen calm that makes calmy-zen people live well into their second century.  Y’know, tortoises.

I will not see other players as competition.
Hmm.  This I need to change for the good of my health, if not my own sanity.
It might take ten (or twenty-five, depending on your choice) players to make a raid team, but that won’t help if I’m not one of those ten (or twenty-five, depending on your choice).  Sometimes it feels like that old gag about putting on running shoes when faced with a lion; it’s not about out-running the lion, it’s about out-running your mates.
Just like any other sporting team, raid teams need a certain make-up.  Healers, tanks, dps, all in a ratio.  Just like a football team with three goalies and no midfielders, a raid team with too many healers and no dps has lost before it started.
So, this resolution is all about taking enjoyment from being a part of the team, even if the part I play is sitting on the bench as a reserve, rather than only taking enjoyment by being on the pitch.  It’s about taking pleasure in the success of my friends and fellow team-members, rather than envying them, or even worse beginning to begrudging them their success.

I will cut the chaff.
This isn’t just about getting rid of those subscriptions for games that I no longer play, but more a case of ensuring that when I am playing, I’m not just looking at a screen wondering what to do, or deciding to “hang out” just in case something interesting comes up.
No, I shall make something interesting happen, or I shall log out, and play something else.  Or go and do chores.  *Anything*, in fact, rather than just sit looking at the same thing because I’m a bit bored in game.
There are plenty of fun things to do in MMOs, and plenty of lovely things to do outside them, so I shall waste time on neither boredom nor boring things.

I will play more single-player games.
This is only partly because I just bought a whole load of games in the Steam sale.  For someone who decided that Steam was evil when it first appeared, I am a real Steam sale junky.  Past Me despises what I’ve become.  I almost agree with Past Me.  Past Me has morals, and beliefs, and standards.  Past Me is also a bit boring, and needs to get that stick out of his @rse.
Anyhoo, there was a reason that I bought these games, and that’s because too much of one thing is bad for the soul.  It’s one of the reasons why I spend so much time making scenery for miniatures war-gaming; making something (even a fake hill) is really nice after spending so much time in a virtual world.
Playing single player games makes me not only appreciate the MMO nature of the games I play, but also the players that share the game world with me.  Yes, it’s single-player sorbet; good for the MMO palette.

So there we have it.  Hawley’s New Year Resolutions.  It seems I do do New Year’s Resolutions after all.  Well, at least this once.  We’ll see how it goes, and if it works we can always try it again next year.

We just won’t mention marathons.  Ever.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Filled with Crunchy Goodness.

December 24, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Posted in General | 3 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

In 1974, Dungeons and Dragons was first published.

Being the product of a couple of then unknowns (thank you so much, Messrs Gygax and Arneson) it was gaming how they saw it needed to be.  Yet, as with all things, people had opinions.  Some decided it was just right, and continued playing it.

Others thought that the rules system was too complex, and from this movement games such as Tunnels and Trolls were released.  Tunnels and Trolls was a lot more simple than Dungeons and Dragons, and that simplicity brought a game system that was a lot more accessible than previously seen.

Others saw Dungeons and Dragons and decided it was way too simplistic; with a table for everything up to and including tickling trout, Chivalry and Sorcery was the polar opposite of Tunnels and Trolls, being complex and sophisticated.   Whilst Tunnels and Trolls was a game, Chivalry and Sorcery was a simulation.  Dungeons and Dragons sat in the middle, being a bit of both.

Of course, I never got to play Chivalry and Sorcery.  It was a little too complex for my gaming group.  We played a wide variety of games, but no-one felt up to trying to run something *that* in depth.

But there is a lesson in there; whatever a game is, some players will want the game to be simpler, some will want it more complex, and others will want it to stay at the same level.

Enter Rift from Trion Worlds.

Now, for a game that is still in development that hasn’t got the words “Wars” and “Star” (not necessarily in that order) in its name is quite an achievement.  The Secret World (lookin’ at you, Mr Tornquist) has achieved that by looking rather cool and sexy with it’s shiny leathery shadow war/cthulhoid horror/general froodyness, to the extent that I have taken the online test thingy, and am more than willing to sign up to the Templars, and start booting doors down.

Especially when I get assigned my large angry shotgun, my gunfighter’s duster, and my angry perma-scowl.  Oh, I am so there!

Rift has managed to ping on my gamedar because of the hype surrounding the beta test.  To the extent that I even *embraced change* enough to use that Googly thing (other misspelled search engines are available) to go to the Rift homepage.

From there I was able to read lots of lovely hyperbole, and was even able to have a look at some of the buzzword-laden teaser trailers that are there.

From there, the NDA lifts, and I can search for the blog posts from freshly ungagged testers that are emerging.

The overwhelming opinion seems to be that Rifts is *nicer* than any fantasy MMO previously released.  It’s chimeric pedigree has created a game with, luckily, all the best bits of half a dozen existing MMOs, rather than all their worst bits.  Well done Trion, because that’s a much harder job than it sounds.

They have also, it seems, decided to head down the Chivalry and Sorcery route, by ramping up the complexity of game-play, rather than heading into troll-infested tunnels, like so many other MMOs.

I didn’t get into the beta.  It seemed like the hot ticket of the time, and again, well done to Trion for managing to do this at the same time that the Blizzard behemoth launches an expansion.  It really takes some skill to survive that sort of monster, never mind prosper in its shadow.

I didn’t try to get into the beta.  I follow a couple of Rift-related feeds on that Twitter thingy, but never tried to grab a beta key because I really don’t want to spend the time and effort to play a beta game when I have so many released games to play (and not enough time to play them all).

It’s also worth pointing out that whilst I have a real hankering to play Star Wars: The Old Republic (strong in The Geek, am I.  Mmmmm!), and The Secret World has just grabbed my imagination because it has such a strong concept, Rift has gone for the common denominator, and that doesn’t work as well for me.

I enjoy a fantasy film, novel or game as much as the next geek, but there is something thoroughly generic about a generic fantasy world.  I can understand why it’s such a popular choice with MMO developers; with the requirement of needing the most possible players, there is a necessity not to offend as many as possible.  As a result, there’s no hook to grab me.  It’s sort of like elf-flavoured blancmange; smells of flowers, surprisingly bland.

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about the rifts themselves.  The static sounding ones, with their Public Quest-style game-play sound fun, but nothing special.  From what I’ve seen and heard, they sound like the continuance of gameplay using a swirly thing rather than tromping over the next hill.  The random ones sound fantastic, though.  A rift opens, hod-loads of gribblies come pouring out, and general cool gameplay abounds.  Something unexpected, that makes the world feel a little more like the random, chaotic world that we live in rather than a static, scripted, and constantly repeated moment in time.

As well as being something for the game-playing community to rally around, over, and through.

But that is more of a game-play draw than a world/background draw.  As are the multiple “souls” concept; that seems like a thematic fluff covering over a really customisable class-role crunch system.  Dress it up however you want, it will always be part of the crunchy guts of the game.

I was also impressed by the declarations on the website that say, to the layman such as myself, that Rifts is about the crunch; it is a game that is for the more complete gamer, being more complex in terms of mechanisms and game-play to most other MMOs.  It is the Chivalry and Sorcery to World of Warcraft’s Dungeons and Dragons.  I like games with a bit of crunch and complexity behind them, as more options means more game.

In point of fact, and I suppose it’s only just striking me now, the whole draw of Rifts doesn’t seem to be the world of Rifts, but rather the projected game-play.  The hype seems to be all about the improvements over existing games, about the complexity of the game-play on offer, rather than the world itself.

In a way, I find that a shame.  I don’t want to be told about how this product is better than that existing product.  I want to be told that this product is the best product that will ever be available, and these are the reasons why.  I want Rift to stand up as it’s own game, not as a better alternative to World of Warcraft.

I really hope Rift does well, but as it has neither the pull of existing games I’m playing, nor the pull of games that will (hopefully) come out next year (heheh.  I’m saying that like it’s a long time away, rather than next week), I can only give it the same offer as any A N Other MMO gets:

I will play you if my mates do.

Many of my mates play World of Warcraft.  They have a lot of time invested in that game, so anything that is going to draw them away, to invest fully in another game, is going to have to pull against the weight of an awful lot of inertia and nostalgia.  The rest play Lord of the Rings Online, which has its own inertial pull in terms of world, game-play, and (sigh) free to play nature.

Add in the fact that an MMO is much less fun when playing solo.  It sort of destroys the whole point of the thing, and to be honest, I’m rubbish at this whole “making new friends” thing.  Starting an MMO “solo” means finding a guild, and that’s a lot harder than it seems, especially at launch time.  It’s not just finding a guild that has the same aims and objectives; it’s about finding a guild that will not just survive those first few weeks, but thrive in the coming months.

It’s not a particularly fair offer, I admit, but I need to save cash.  Deciding to put my gaming destiny into the hands of my mates seems to be a surefire way of saving money that would otherwise be spent on buying a box, playing for a month, and then never again.

Hmm.  I hope I don’t sound anti-Rift, because I’m not.  Really, I’m not.  I hope the game does well.  Just like Slurms, I’m hoping the game goes like a rocket, because more well-designed, successful games are good for the genre, and our hobby.

And if the game is *that* good, *that* special, and just plain old *that much fun*, then I’m pretty sure that the sane, rational people I know will decide that they

There is, however, one little question that I would like us all to think about:

If a rift opens, but there’s no player there to interact with it, do we really care about the sound of one hand clapping?

Merry Christmas.

Cheers,
Hawley.

2(Throne of Tides)

December 21, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I have now been to the Throne of the Tides twice.

The first time was a few days ago, whilst levelling.  It was a first time visit for a few of us there, and it’s a bright, breezy romp with a few very nice visual design touches.  When I’m rich and powerful enough, I’m going to have a lift made out of a jellyfish too.  It can take me up to my zeppelin.

I love that lift.

There are also a few really nice game-play elements in there as well.  There are a couple of gauntlets to run, a couple of entertaining boss-fights, and even an opportunity to beat up your mates (or just one if you’re unlucky).

All in all, it’s a nice place to go adventuring.

The second time was last night, where I was lucky enough to go with a guild group as part of my first run at the Heroic version of the instance.

I’m not sure about anyone else, but Heroics seem to have regained their hallowed nature since the launch of ‘Clysm.  I was always ambivalent about the Heroics in Wrath of the Lich King. I didn’t do that many of them, never really understood them or learned the fights because all the tactics seemed to consist of; Run in, welly anything that moves, aoe everything that doesn’t just in case.

This is largely because by the time I’d got to level 80 (I was late to the Lich King party) everyone else was so geared up that Heroics required little more tactics than; “Get ‘im!”.  In point of fact, they were the norm, rather than instances that had more of a challenge for exceptional players.

But the wheel turns, and Heroics are once again a challenge.  Not only were mobs and bosses harder, but there were a few design elements that were modified, or added in the jump between Normal and Heroic difficulty.

I would say that they’ll be a challenge for a few months, but the more cynical part of me thinks it’s more likely to be just a few weeks before the vast bulk of the player base gears itself up in the move towards raiding, and Heroic tactics revert to their usual status.

That’s a shame.

Heroics were cool when they were introduced in The Burning Crusade.  They were for when Normal just wasn’t enough of a challenge, and had an element of mini-Raid about them; all the challenge, but without the requirement of a horde of other players.

Because World of Warcraft has such a gear-based progression system, success breeds even more success.  That means that content isn’t just conquered, it’s ground into the dirt, spat on, and completely disrespected.

Until then, though, I shall continue to enjoy Heroics.

Cheers,
Hawley.

!

December 20, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Well, it’s been two weeks, and whilst I’ve been playing World of Warcraft more than I might over the course of an average week, I’ve not exactly been hammering it either.

I’ve got to level 85, and whilst I’ve enjoyed working through them, I’ve completed all the quests I could find in Mount Hyjal (apart from the jousting quests; hates them), Vash’Jir, Uldum and Twilight Highlands.  I’m currently idling my way through Deepholm, having got through a decent chunk of it.

This is a strange situation for me, as previously quests have seemed to be a never-ending torrent of things to do.  They don’t *end*, so much as I out-level them, and move on.

The fact that they’ve ended, without me necessarily moving on, means I’m left wondering if there isn’t some huge secret that everyone else knows but I don’t.  Is there a big secret?  If there is, you can let me in on it, honest.  You know that, don’t you?  We’re mates, after all.

So, moving on with the thought that I am, after all, *completing quest chains* (I had to suppress a shudder at that.  I’m not a completionist.  Whilst I am aware of the concept, and both respectful and slightly in awe of those who *are* completionists, it’s not something I can be), and that I’m not just imagining it, here are a few thoughts:

This isn’t just a new thing for me, but a new concept for questing, from what I’ve experienced before.

From my recollection, many quest chains back in the goode olde days of World of Warcraft involved solo questing, topped off with a group quest against an elite mob.  Lord of the Rings Online took this model and really went for it in grand style; virtually every quest chain involved solo gameplay until the final quest, which involved a group fight against big narsty monsty.  Usually with adds.

Of course, it wasn’t just artificial, it was jarring.  Having to find a group meant delays spent forming that group.  It could also mean that quest never got done .  Well, it meant that for me in a lot of cases.  It didn’t matter that the xp reward was great, that the cash bonus was considerable, and it didn’t matter if the item handed out was really good for the level.

Most of the time, I’d just carry on questing, because I knew that for less hassle I could get more solo quests done, giving me just as much xp and cash, and the item would probably be out-levelled soon enough anyway.  As with most players, I’ll go for a fun gaming experience, as opposed to the not-fun of *doing it right*.

The ‘Clysm has been different, and that gets a thumbs up from me.  Group gaming hasn’t been thrown away, as it’s still possible to group up for questing content.  As ever, grouping for quest content means a blitz through whole swathes of content, so if you want a challenge, then solo is probably your way to go.

Anywhere where a group quest would have been added, NPCs and devices which “weaken” the elite mob have been put in.  It’s not all formulaic; sometimes the item will remove the elite status, sometimes there are game land-mines to kite a mob onto.  Sometimes the NPC will tank for you; other times, *you* are the tank.

And if you’re after some hot group action (oo-er missus!) then it’s instances and raids you’ll be looking at.

Is it a cynical move?  Allow more people the opportunity to easily and seamlessly see all your levelling content, therefore making it easier to attain achievements based around it?

Hmmm…  Maybe.

But as a gamer, I’m glad I didn’t have to look at a quest, then immediately consign it to the “In case of Blue Moon” file.

Cheers,
Hawley.

I say, I say, I say: My worgen has no nose!

December 14, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

No, this isn’t a review, more of an ramble covering what I’ve done, been involved in, and thought during the last week when Cataclysm, or “’Clysm” as the Hawley One likes to think of it, finally struck.  I’ve also tried to be as spoiler-free as possible, for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, it means that you, dear reader, are free to discover the joys and delights to be found within the various elements of Cataclysm with a childish sense of exploration unsullied by the revelations I might disclose with my turgid prose.

Secondly, I’m a slacker, and accurate research is sometimes far too much like real work.  I’m aware of my limitations.

It’s been a week, and as of last night I was almost exactly half way through Level 84.  I suppose that leaves me with half a level to occupy me for two years, until the next expansion is released…

This shows how fast levelling has been, even for slowcoach slacker me.  Many of the people I play with are already level 85, whilst others are rocketing through levels with their Worgen.

I’ve gone through most of the quests in Mount Hyjal (I avoided the jousting quests, as I’ve never been a fan of the jousting system in World of Warcraft.  The addition of having to “flap” wings has just made it feel like Moonlander with better graphics, and all of the annoying gameplay.  I was not impressed then, I’m not impressed now.  Sorry, Blizzard), and gone through Vash’Jir, which was bright, colourful, and fun.

I’ve done a few of the quests in Deepholm, and am currently working my way through the Highlands.

Finishing off Highlands in the next day or so should sort me all the way to level 85.

I’ve also done a few instance runs, and had fun with those.  It was nice to go into an instance to learn it, rather than to follow the instructions of the group leader.  It was also fun to go in, just for the pleasure of going in and seeing what was there.  Adding the acquisition of xp to that of trez and rep was the purest sort of gravy.

Enhancement spec for the first couple of runs meant that I could get stuck in there and chop stuff up.  Whilst I find I have to focus hard to ensure I can squeeze every last bit of damage out, having been levelling I was more aware of what the enhancement spec was capable of.

Healing for a couple of runs last night was pure, running-‘round-the-room-hysterical-crazy.  In point of fact, I was almost at the point of handing in my Healer’s Mafia membership card and t-shirt, I was that bad.

It seems that it’s not just enough to shove a few points into the Restoration talent tree, get all dolled up in Intelligence gear, and then spam Chain Heal wherever possible.  Well, not any more.

I did have one eye on possible instance healing, which was why I had decided, where possible, to keep updating my healing set of gear.  It was so that it was as up to date as I could get it, and quite frankly it’s a good thing I did.

I also had a crash course in what heals worked, and what didn’t, whilst running through ‘Clysm’s instances.  There was a lot of frenzied exchanging of icons in quickslots, as well as reading and rereading of spell tooltips, to ensure that I wasn’t lead numpty in a set of horrendous group-wipe fiascos.

A lesson learned, then.  Don’t neglect an area of gameplay, then rely on natural skill and ability to carry me through.  Ah well.

Other lessons I have learned?

Well, I’ve learned that the Worgen starting area is rather well done.  The instanced phasing used in and around the level 80-85 areas are also used to good effect to show the fall of Gilneas, whilst giving a rather fun horror-film vibe to all of the proceedings.

I’ve also learned that Blizzard have learned how to tell a story.  Using heavy amounts of instanced phasing means travelling through each of the zones is part of one log tale, rather than starting in one quest hub, hopping to the next hub, then the next.  It’s good, and I like it, and it stopped things becoming a long grind.

I’ve also learned that no matter who you are, no matter how big your behemoth is, launch day queues will smack you as hard as they can.  And that no matter how you see it intellectually, nothing sucks like sitting in the queue, knowing your mates (and, seemingly, the rest of the world) are having fun without you.

As for thoughts?

Well, I’ve enjoyed myself playing through ‘Clysm so far, and hope to do so for some time to come.  There are one or two niggles, but I think I’ll drop those in a post once I’ve pondered them for a while.

All in all, I’m pretty sure I’m enjoying ‘Clysm more than any expansion World of Warcraft has had.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Post-clysm Hug

December 8, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

How was your Cataclysm launch?

I love launch days.  I was worried that I wouldn’t get to see yesterday’s Cataclysm launch day because of a combination of cars that wouldn’t start, and an estimated delivery date of the 9th of December, but both came good and I found myself logging on, with a World of Cataclysm waiting for me.

First thing I did was create a Worgen Druid.  Yes, I am *that* filthy.  I’ve never wanted a druid before, and was never a fan of Night Elfs nor Taurens.  But give me the prospect of a freaky dog-boy with a top hat (my personal theory is that sneaky devs created both in tandem as a way of hooking me) and I’m there pushing my way to the front of the queue to sign up.

Foolish Hawley.

No, I didn’t play Dog-Boy Drood.  Shaman Herewerd needs to level.  I’m such a slow leveller that I decided I would at least attempt to be at the same level as everyone else on launch night.

Which was almost successful.  Seeing as I wasn’t online at midnight (My copy of Cataclysm hadn’t arrived, and I need to be in bed by 10:30.  Yes, I’m a lightweight as well as a slacker) I was a level or two behind quite a surprising amount of players.  And of course there were tales of players who’d got to level 85 by lunchtime.

Foolish Hawley.  That could have been you, were it not for allowing little things like sleep, and going to work, to interfere with levelling duties!

Ah well, there’ll be plenty of time in which to level up to 85.

Well, after the customary queuing time (I only spent about half an hour queuing, which was just long enough to prepare some dinner for later, have a lovely cup of tea, and get a couple of quests done in Fable 2) I found myself with that lovely moment of indecision and confusion over where to go, and what to do.

Now, I try not to get too negative here, but I was reminded quite forcefully of the dark half of launch days, which involves zones that are overcrowded and largely populated by players who don’t seem to care for their fellow player in their rush to get their hands on shiny trez and xp, when I tried playing in the new zones.

And I just wasn’t having as much fun as I should have.  Maybe I’m just not thick-skinned enough to fight with other players over spawns and drops; maybe that’s true PvP and I’m just not cut out for it.

Either way, I was rescued by my guildmates; someone suggested checking out the new instances, and I was there like a shot.

Being away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds, I was able to relax in the company of friends, and start to remember why World of Warcraft is so much fun.  Instance design was fun, use of quests had a fun and new way of leading a group through the instance whilst telling a story, and some of the visual ideas were just… well, rather special.

So far, I think the fun of ‘Clysm (I know, everyone else calls it “Cata”.  That’s just not as fun-sounding an abbreviation as “’Clysm” is) has outweighed the nutsy over-crowding.  And that over-crowding will end within a day or so as they all out-level me.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Have Mount, Will Travel.

December 1, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

In my return to the World that is Warcraft’s, I have yet to turn off, filter out, or generally destroy the public channels.

I’m not sure why, because I usually get rid of them in a fit of ragequit as soon as I possibly can. Maybe I am mellowing out now that I’m an old codger.

As it is, I’m quite enjoying watching them scroll by at high speed whilst furtling about in one or other of the cities. Many guilds are recruiting, especially the “military rp” ones, there are the usual knob references and gags, and every so often someone throws out a line that sets me off on a ponder.

One such line was the individual who was stating that there would be no point gaining Worgen rep, as they have no racial mount.

Replies were lost in the avalanche of guild adverts, but the ponder had started. So much so that I canvassed opinions during a quiet moment during an instance run.

It was agreed and accepted that worgen not riding but having an enhanced-speed running mode was perfectly fine due to their animalisric nature. Dog on a horse? Crazy!

Then someone mentioned Tauren, and their bigfatlizzids. And the fact that they’d had a similar running skill that didn’t make it past beta.  Something along the lines of “Plainsrunning”.

Hmm. Mixed messages from the Blizzard boys and girls there, but I can see the business case for having all the races at game launch have mounts, and diversifying later.

I can also see past the “magic”, and realise that any mount is just a glorified enhanced-speed running mode.

Yet for all that, I find I love mounts. Being an old Everquest kid, I remember when mounts didn’t exist in games. When Star Wars Galaxies introduced speeders it was an exciting time; suddenly travelling from one place to another wasn’t just faster, it was cool!

Warcraft introduced racial mounts, then mounts at the end of rep grinds, and as trez drops. Lord of the Rings Online has just joined in the money-maker already used by Warcraft and Everquest 2 by releasing an RMT only mount.

And Fallen Earth has animal mounts, mutant mounts, and build-your-own vehicle mounts. Including (adopts bad attempt at an Australian accent) *the last of the V8 interceptors*. It’s a veritable mountopia, it really is.

It’s also a lot easier to get mounts nowadays. There are Lower level requirements and they’re cheaper to buy; mounts used to be a luxury item. Soon they’ll be an inalienable right.

I like mounts. Not just the faster speed, but the mount itself.

After all, what’s not to like about riding a giant, angry-looking cat or dog?  Or that ultimate in pimped-out mounts, a drrrrragin?  Mounts are a bright, imaginative way of covering up  a way of just making a character move faster.  Or to fly.  Or whatever is required or permitted by the devs.

They’re also a nice way to distract me from the tedium of travelling any distance.  Having more than one lets me get vary what I see, and I can sometimes collect them when I feel like it.  They are, after all, another thing to aspire to.

Do I mind that Worgen don’t get a mount?  No, and neither do I worry that it’s a trend that will be taken up in other games.  And the only Worgen character I was intending to create would be a druid, and they’ve always had their own methods of propulsion anyway.

Given the choice, I’d let Worgen have a moped.  Mopeds are under-represented in MMOs.  I’d absolutely love it if Fallen Earth had one, too.

Cheers,
Hawley.

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