Wherein there is No Particular Order

September 13, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

A recent jaunt across the Irish Sea meant No MMOs For Hawley For A Week, which is a harsh period of cold turkey for an addict such as myself.  For reference purposes, it’s worse than No Pizza, but nowhere near as bad as [shudder] No Tea.

Slight tangent: In Ballina, Mayo, there is a restaurant called Padraic’s Restaurant.  It looks like the sort of greasy-spoon diner that was last decorated during the 1970s.  It doesn’t have the ambience of the cooler sort of contemporary eateries, and the menu wasn’t designed and produced on a Mac by someone who is very creative.  Yet the late lunch we had there was my favourite meal of the entire holiday.  You see, at Padraic’s, the service is friendly and welcoming, the food is high quality, the portions are large, and the menu itself is wide-ranging and universally good.  And for what you get, the prices are more than right.

It’s a good job it’s another country away; if there was one in my home town, I’d be twice the size I am.  And I’m big enough already.

Heading slightly back on track: Not being able to play MMOs doesn’t mean I didn’t think about them, and being Multi-Game at the moment, about what makes me *want* to spend time in three different MMOs.

So, in no particular order:

Star Wars: The Old Republic.  The gameplay doesn’t just make The Old Republic some sort of warm woolly blanket every time I need a comfy and welcoming gaming fix.  It’s all those lovely storylines; for the first time I’ve had moments where I’ve sat and thought a decision through before making it.  And once this went so far that I was forced to go and make a brew, and then ponder through the decision before settling on my choice.  I’ve not been forced to do that since Fallout 2, and that’s a long time ago.

I’m also a huge fan of the combat and related class skills.  Playing a trooper makes me feel like I’m playing through my own personal war film, whilst consular felt like an old-school hermit-based wizard.  The skills just support that, and the pin-sharp animations really bring it home.  Yes, every time Hawley picks a droid out of the ground and lobs it at some monsty, I grin like a loon.

The Secret World.  The thing that amazes me about this game is the level of detail that Funcom have brought into this game.  Every time I play, I’m surprised by how deeply immersed I get, how many smart references there are, and how well gauged the atmosphere is.  Just the thought of seeing more of the game world is enough to keep me wanting to play, never mind the sheer joy of the classless character system.

Guild Wars 2.  PvP.  Just WvWvWvWvWvWvWvWvWvWvW me up please, because I loves me some WvWvWvWvWvWvWvWvWvWvW.  Fighting over a dedicated PvP conquest zone is just loads of fun, and something that makes me giggle.  No, I’m not a hardcore PvPer.  I’m not even good at it.  I am, however, enthusiastic and willing.

I had a wonderful time on holiday, but just as it’s always nice to come home after, it’s nice to be able to log on and play an MMO that will give me something that’s whole and hearty.

Oh, and don’t forget to go for a meal in Padraic’s some time.

Cheers,

Hawley.

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That Third Soul

February 18, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Posted in General | 4 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Have I mentioned that I like the soul system in Rift?

Have I mentioned that I *really* like the soul system in Rift?

I just like the flexibility of it.  I love the fact that every class is a hybrid, yet can specialise as much as the player wants.  Or diversify.  I love the fact that, apart from internet-hotness sages, no-one will be able to definitively state which build is best.  I love that personal choice is once again a viable character creation option.

I also love the fact that so many of the various souls on offer seem so cool, too.

Yes, some of them have names we’ve encountered before.  Well, thankfully there’s no copyright on names like “Shaman”, or “Paladin”.  Or is it trademark?  Ah, whatever it is, they’re names that have been used before, and can be used again.  Does using them show a lack of originality?  Well, I’ll reference the whole originality thing later.

And yes, some of the skills and spec choices hiding under those names are evocative of classes in MMOs we’ve all played before.

Here is where I get to discuss that “Originality” thing that I promised I would earlier.

I’m of the opinion that there is nothing new under the sun.  Everything has a precursor, everything has been seen in some shape or form previously.  And that includes MMOs.  World of Warcraft didn’t just pop into existance from out of a void, and neither did Rift.  It’s just a product of the environment that spawned it.

Besides, if the dev team was desperate to be different and not copy, they could have come up with original names for their classes.  But compare “Phlookertum” with “Paladin”.  Paladin conjures up images of heavy armour and healing, whereas Phlookertum just makes me wonder if the person behind the name just needs to sit in a darkened room with no caffeine for a while.

Yes, I probably should.  But I won’t.

Besides, there’s no point going to all that effort to come up with a fancy new title if everyone just looks at the skills and realises; “Oh, a Phlookertum is just a Paladin”.

I think there are also quite valid reasons for heavy armour wearing tanks, and rogues with stabby things, and clerics that heal and mages that blow stuff up; they are understandable concepts that we can get our heads around when starting off.  They are a great way to tell a new player what their role will be, without needing to spend a while on the specifics.

Look at any class in any MMO and you’ll see skillsets.  It’s the skillsets that define the role that class will fulfill in general play.  Rift allows a surprising amount of customisation, but not to the level where individual skills and talents can be cherry-picked.

No, Rift allows the choice to be through the combination of three different packages, called souls.  Those packages mean that we can’t put together the exact class of our dreams, but we can probably get closer than most fantasy games have let us in the past.

Now, due to the vagaries of how my headbrain works, I’ve been able to reliably decide, in most situations, on two souls that I would really like to use to create some initial characters, for largely each class type.

Yet it’s that third soul that I’ve found to be extremely tricky, but in a good way.

Let me expl- um, ramble further.  Illustrated in words with the class of Cleric.

I would like to play a healing cleric.  I’ve enjoyed the hot Rift action I’ve engaged in; it’s crazy like PvP, but without the in-built desire by the other side to pound healers into the dirt first.  In exemplu: me.  Looking through the healing souls, Warden and Sentinel seem most fun.  Heals over time from the Warden, group heals from the Sentinal.  Done, dusted, sorted.

But wait; three is the magic number here.  That third soul.  I could go for yet more healing, but I don’t fancy the Purifier as there’s some crossover with the Sentinal, and I thought it would be nice to have some offensive power for those times where healing isn’t necessary.

I tested a few of the other souls during the beta; I have created five clerics so far, all because I have been doing science! with them.  I think this is largely due to the fact that so many souls just seem really, really cool.  I played around with Druid for some time (those fairies are surprisingly cool) but I wanted ranged power.  Shaman and Justicar were likewise nice ideas, but a little too hitty-stick-based for my liking.

In the end, I looked at Inquisitor and Cabalist.

Both of them made me feel like putting on a “Now I have a machine gun too.  Ho ho ho” t-shirt, they really did.  And not in a dead-in-a-lift-with-my-angry-henchman-criminal-brother-going-burko sort of way, but in a look-at-me-I-deadly sort of way.

I could see that one seemed more single-target damage, and the other more aoe/multi-target, but I couldn’t decide which was more cool, so in the end decided to play the naughty card (when in doubt, go naughty), and went for Cabalist.

Even now, I might change my mind.

It’s quite crazy, really.  I would have thought it would be easy to find three souls out of eight that I’d want to use for each character, but I’m finding that whilst it’s relatively painless to find two that stand above the rest for the skillsets I want, I find that the third is often far more elusive.

Because all of those third souls are just so cool.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Internet Hotness

February 14, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

A short while ago, I decided to see if I could get Shaman Herewerd through the magic 10,000dps barrier with the gear he had.  He was quite comfortably in the 8,500dps region, and without major gear upgrades, all I could think of was to change the way that I prioritised the use of my skills.

That meant research on the internet.

This is because I would rather go to somewhere like [insert website of choice here] where someone else has spent a good few hours smacking training dummies and working out the numbers, than go and smack training dummies for a few hours myself only to come to the same conclusions.

Numbers are good like that; you have to be specifically trained to make them lie.

So, armed with someone else’s numbers and someone else’s opinion, I was able to take a shortcut, and with a short amount of research, trial and error I was able to gain an extra 2,000dps, thereby hiting the 10,000dps mark (just).

Of course, I didn’t just take the nice faceless man off the internet’s word for it.  As well as research, there was trial and error.  That testing, allowed me to form my own opinion.

Of course, it was perfectly ok for me to do that; I was just searching for information with which to base my own research on, using it to come to my own conclusions.  I was in no way just looking for something to copy.

No, definitely not, no.  Not at all.

Because if I had, if I’d just been looking for the latest Internet Hotness, if I was just taking what the internet said was Teh Bestet and not using my own noggin, then I would be at the wrongest end of the Wrong, Wronger, Wrongest Scale, and would most likely find myself in the same MMO Gaming Hell as those who buy accounts off ebay, buy gold from disreputable internet firms, and play in beta tests *and never submit bug reports*.

I suppose the big question isn’t whether or not using the internet to try and improve our game is cheating, but whether or not we allow others to take away our right to play in the way that we want to.

It’s something I’ve been pondering for a while now, and something that I will no doubt be pondering for some time to come.

Ysharros, she-queen of Stylish Corpse, wrote an entertainingly enlightening piece on World of Warcraft’s Tol Barad.  Whilst reading through her recommendations for aspiring victors, the part that resonated most with me was this particularly wonderfully written passage:

“VII. Go counter-clockwise — that’ll totally fox ‘em! Okay, I’m (mostly) joking on this one. But you never know. As it stands, everyone knows the general direction of battle is clockwise, and I’m not sure that’s really a strategy.”

It reminds me very much of; “They came on in the same old way and we defeated them in the same old way.”; I’m not sure that Wellington was just being all cool and hip when he tripped that one off in 1815, and things haven’t changed as far as most MMO players are concerned.

So it’s not just grabbing talent specs or gear setups from the internet; we also play in certain ways when given a choice.  The way that “everyone knows”, with the heavy implication that only noobs don’t.

But I suppose the thing that really got me thinking about this was me attempting to go raiding in World of Warcraft.  It was only a few raids, but there was quite a lot of preparation.

There was going on Youtube (other video sharing websites are available.  Possibly.  I don’t know really, I’m just trying to be fair) and watching videos of the various bosses, what they do and how they can be defeated.

There was reading strategies from various internet sites such as WoWWiki (now I *know* other such websites exist.  You can check them out too), and then there was checking the guild’s website to see if anything particular to our guild’s attempts had been posted.

And this was all before turning up at whichever boss was to be our sacrificial altar, and hurling ourselves at it.

Of course, the reason for studying all of those strategy guides was so that we didn’t have to find out what abilities and phases a boss has at the sharp end; it means less time spent wiping on the boss to learn how to defeat that boss.

But it also highlighted how scripted the World of Warcraft bosses are.  If we deviated from the plan, we died.  If someone was slightly off game, we died.  If someone forgot what their role in the operation was, we died.  There wasn’t much give, there wasn’t much slack.  There was no place for thinking outside the box.

There was just the following of the plan.

I’m sure there was a gentler time, a more beautiful time, when raiders would go out raiding and not have to follow such a strict strategy.  That individual raiders could mess up, but the raid team could recover.  When it was an individual’s skill that mattered far more than just their ability to follow a list of instructions.

And no, I’m not talking about when a raid team is so over-geared for the instance that they hardly need to bother.  I’m talking about when the raid instance was still a challenge for those involved.

Now it seems to me that players are more than willing to point out when things are going wrong, and that it’s *all your fault*.  Because *you are doing it wrong*.

*Thicky*.

I like to think of it as one of the joys of PUGging, but it doesn’t just end there.

A few posts ago, I commented about Sage-Mage and his amazing advice.  Well, Sage-Mage isn’t the only know-it-all, flinging out advice like a monkey-poo-flinger, expecting everyone else to be the sort of thicky-thicky-dullards who would not only need his advice, but thank him for it.

PUGging has loads of them, because MMO gaming is full of them.

Even I, at times, have given out advice.  I would like to think that my advice was clear, concise, and cogent, but I’m also pretty sure that all of us monkey-advice-flingers tend to think the same about the advice we’re flinging; clear, concise, cogent.

And, no doubt, they’re pretty sure that their advice is being flung at noobs that *require* said advice, because if they weren’t noobs, they patently wouldn’t *need* said advice.  Good, experienced players already play in a good, experienced way that needs no advice.

They are already Doing It Right™.

I sometimes wonder if the only way to play correctly, to be seen to be Doing It Right™ is to follow the sage advice freely available on the internet.

Well, it’s certainly easier.  It was easier for me to start off with someone else’s hard work, than it was to do all that hard work myself.

There is also the opportunity to devolve oneself of all responsibility, should things go wrong.  It’s not *my* fault, it’s this lousy talent spec/gear set I got from the internet.  I was just *testing* it out.

Yet I suppose the ultimate irony is that all this theory-crafting, all the strategy guides, all the nasty-cheaty websites that tell us which monsters drop certain gear and the easy ways to complete quests are a sign of a healthy, happy community.

Players who are happy about their game want to tell the world, and the internet lets them.  Heck, I’m happy with my hobby; I love MMOs, so that’s why I blog about them (as opposed to blogging about cheese, or doric columns, or any one of a myriad things that I quite like, but just make me happy, as opposed to Happy).

Quite often it’s a healthy community that makes us want to play in the most optimal way.  Sub-optimal is great for characters in a novel.  To be honest, every novel I’ve read which had Captain Awesome as the protagonist has not been a favourite read.  I want sub-optimal in my heroes; I want to see characters strive for success, I don’t want it to be guaranteed from the first page.

Lord of the Rings, source for so many fantasty backrounds in books and films as well as those of the MMOs we play, has a sub-optimal hero.  Short, fat, big hairy feet; at first glance, Frodo is hardly the poster-hobbit for death-ninja missions (or even holidays) to Mount Doom.

Yet when it comes right down to it, I don’t think of playing sub-optimal.  I might have once (such blissfully naïve days), but not any more.  Sub-optimal doesn’t just lead to not being able to see or do everything you might want.  No, it leads to something far worse.

The censure of our peers.

There is no winning and losing within an MMO.  But there is winning when other players are in awe of us and losing when they think we’re nothing more than a noob.  I sometimes think that “Noob” is the greatest insult to an MMO player, and quite a lot more insulting than any of the more pithy Anglo-Saxon-based insults the English language is home to.  At other times, I’m sure it is.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons why seeking guidance from the internet is so enticing, and so popular.  Take the most optional build for your class from the internet.  You might well end up a clone of everyone else with the same class, but at least you won’t look like a noob.

Same goes for following the traditional methods of levelling, of instancing, of PvPing, of raiding.  Innovation is something that devs get involved in; as a player, shut up and follow the established rule.  Show yourself to be a dangerous anarchist with your own opinions, and show yourself to be a noob.

Noob!

Cheers,
Hawley.

Little Choices

February 4, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Friendships follow us.  They’re good like that.  One of the fun things about friendship is the sharing of experiences; if I spend time enjoying the company of my fellow gamer whilst smacking orcs in the face in one game, then I’m more than likely to enjoy spending time with that same fellow gamer whilst smacking eeeeeviel cultists in another.

So the most natural thing in the world is to want to continue playing games with the friends I have made during my time in various online worlds.

Yet with that comes a certain amount of loss of destiny, of control.  When I approached my first MMO, I got to decide everything for myself; being on my own meant I got to decide everything myself.

Yet with friends comes lack of choice.  I like to think that’s a good thing, but there are always those little niggling moments where being a part of the group means not getting exactly what we want.

Yes, I’m talking about those times I’ve gone to the cinema and ended up watching some strange chick-flick rather than the action thriller, or going out for food and ending up at a Mexican restaurant when I really, really wanted pizza.

And there are always those times when old friends would insist on going out to that nasty flea-pit of a pub, *just* because we used to go there a couple of decades ago.

Feeling suitably old now (yes, I’m still amazed that I can now say “a couple of decades ago” without irony) I shall move on to where I am today:

Looking at Rift, and hoping that I’ll get what I want with respect to server and faction choice.

That Open Beta period of time before launch is always a bit strange for me.  Mixed with all of the excitement and anticipation is the planning.  I like to think that some of that anticipation is good, useful planning; what server shall we play on, what faction shall we choose, who will be faction leader, who will be the officers?

And then there is what I see as the over-excited planning; maybe I should take my MMO gaming more seriously, because I find it hard to understand why there are guilds out there that have decided that they are no longer recruiting Sith Inquisitors and Smugglers.  Whenever I wonder whether life has become more or less chaotic and random, I end up finding the sort of guild that is so organised that they’ve already filled up their class quota for a game that will be released some time later this year, if not next year (my money is on next year, but I hope to be proved wrong).

With Rift following the familiar pattern of having available races spread between two factions rather than shared, and having those factions exist in a state of war, there is no opportunity for characters from differing factions to play with each other (oo-er missus!) without that being at the business end of swords and spells.

This means that part of joining as a group will mean some members of the group having to decide to compromise on their choice of faction.  With that comes compromise in choice of race.

My usual experience is a lot of forum-based discussion.  Now, from previous posts, you might have guessed that I’m not a fan of committees.  Usually they mean that after a long and involved discussion process, where everyone’s opinion can be heard and valued, everybody ends up equally upset as nobody gets exactly what they wanted.

At least with a choice of two options, there’s a lot less chance of death by committee.

I sometimes think the various psychologists and sociologists who have decided to study our little piece of geek heaven would have a field day, if they could just get past that whole: “MMOs are addictive!” thing.

For a start, there is all that guessing about which of two factions will be most popular, and then deciding whether everyone cares enough to go with the cool kids, or just jump into the same faction as the masses.  There’s deciding which server to go on, and whether or not to care if other guilds encountered in previous games will be, or won’t be, going to the same server.

There’s all of the fun of deciding what type of server to play on; some might want a Role-Playing server, because it’s commonly believed that there is a more mature player base on Role-Playing servers.  Others will want a PvE server because they enjoy that aspect of the game more; others might desire a PvP server because they find straight vE just not as exciting as taking on other players.

Then there’s the joy of faction selection.  It’s a big choice because there are so many things dependant on that one, simple decision.  My gaming will be influenced by the look and feel of the faction, from the architecture of the landscape to the quests that I’ll be running to level up.  It will affect my choice of character race completely; I will not have a free choice of race, because races are faction specific.

Sometimes, choice of class is regulated by choice of race.  I like to think of it as an old Advanced Dungeons & Dragons hangover, as if some races are just plain klutzy when it comes to various careers.  Or something.  I’m really glad Rift believes in equal opportunities.

Such a small number of decisions, but they can really make a huge difference when it comes to enjoying a game.  So being willing to give up any decision-making authority can be a real wrench for me, especially if I particularly care one way or the other about the options on offer.

It shouldn’t be a case of having to choose between friendship or freedom of choice, but sometimes little flights of fancy do wonder what it would have been like to have made other game choices.

Anyway, I’ve chosen to go along with friends, and devolve responsibility in Rift to their choices.  Maybe I’ll be lucky, and they’ll go for the choices I’ve made, maybe I won’t, but unless they choose something that I know I won’t enjoy, I’ll be more than happy.

Cheers,
Hawley.

It’s just this game, y’know?

January 31, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

There have been quite a number of brews consumed in the Household Hawley this last week.

Some of those lovely cups of tea have been consumed because (I hear) the human body requires a certain amount of liquid every day or suffer something known as “dehydration”; a lovely cup of tea sounds like the perfect antidote.

Other lovely cups of tea, those blessed brews, have been spent in deep cogitation.  I wish I could say that it was the sort of deep cogitation that results in the sort of thinking that solves third world debt, or brings peace to the world, but it wasn’t.

I was pondering what to do about my MMO habit.

There are a number of reasons for this.  First, it allows me to drink a quite phenomenal amount of tea.  Second is that my preference for subscription MMOs means a certain outlay each month.  Third is the fact that it would be nice to go on holiday at some point this year, and have the cash to really have a good time.

Goodbye Fallen Earth and Eve Online.  You are both great games, but you both need more care and feeding than I can afford to give you right now.  I need a game I can pick-up and play, and just as importantly put down and leave.  Both of you need more than just a few hours a week to get the most enjoyment out of, the most game out of.  You’re both filled with fantastic game goo, but my life is too busy to put in the time required to advance through the game.

It’s not you, it’s me.

World of Warcraft, for all its faults, does at least let me put it down and leave it for a few days without me feeling like I’m missing out (apart from those dailies, that is).  And yes, it’s *easy*.  I know everything I need to know about it in moments, the normal mobs are so easy they might as well just queue up to give me their lunch money, and sometimes I feel like the only reason I’m playing is the raiding with my mates.

That, and World of Warcraft can be farmed to death whilst watching films or telly-o-vision.  Yes, it’s *that* easy I can play it with most of my headbrain focused on something else.

One could say that the catalyst for a lot of this tea-based thinking has been the hype-machine that is Rift, and to a certain extent that’s a fair statement.

Now, at this point I feel it’s only fair to say that I dislike beta gaming for a number of reasons.  Yes, it’s *free* gaming, and yes, it’s a great way to have a look at a game and decide if it’s worth shelling out for.

But it’s also gaming to a countdown (that pre-release character wipe), and I find that players tend to play differently during a beta than they will on a live server.  Maybe it’s because everyone there knows that none of it matters in the long run, so we might as well all get on and have fun.  Maybe it’s just that beta players are nicer, or that the percentage of idiots is higher on a live server, but I find that leaving the utopian playerbase of the beta who play to the spirit of the game is soul-destroying when I have to go back to the jerks who are playing to the letter now that the game is for keeps.

Yet, after pre-ordering Rift, I did get an invite to Beta 5, and I did try it out.

If anything, I tried it out a little too much.  I wanted to try a few of the different souls out, but I didn’t want to be bored of the starter zones before the game had released.  Same went for trying out all of the classes or all of the souls.  I created a few characters, tried out a couple of souls that I ordinarily wouldn’t, finished the starter zones for one character each on the Defiant and Guardian sides, and explored a little on the Defiant side, which included the closing of a few rifts and the thwarting of a few invasions.

I was not offended by the starter zones.

Boy, that’s a statement there, isn’t it?  “I was not offended”.  It’s almost (but not quite) as bad as damning it with faint praise, but the truth is that there was nothing offensive in the starter zones.  Nothing screamed at me; “Abort! Abort!”; there were no game mechanics that looked like they were really going to ruin my day a few weeks ago.  They were well put together, didn’t have any obvious gaffes, had quests leading me by the nose through the zone, and introduced me to the world rather nicely.

I think a lot of us forget that starter zones aren’t just the start to a game, and that games designers have a duty to those players who are just starting their first MMO to provide them with an introductory tutorial that is inclusive and welcoming, rather than harsh and bewildering.  It’s not about the old lags, it’s about the fresh blood coming in.

As a result, it’s going to look like a lot of other starter zones for a lot of other games (in exactly the same way that all table-top role-playing games have a “What is role-playing?” chapter at the front of the rules, that all of us long-term players moan about having to skip).  But then again, it’s not like us seasoned MMO veterans are going to be there for long, is it?

I would much rather the developers spent much of their time ensuring that the areas of the game where I will be spending much of my time are fun, interesting and original than spending all of their time creating an all-singing, all dancing starter zone that I’ll be done with after a couple of hours.  Age of Conan’s starter zone was amazingly well done, but leaving it was an anti-climax.

Likewise, there are no “new” quests that I could see.  Hardly surprising, really.  Collecting stuff, delivering stuff, killing monsties, assassinating “persons of interest”; as it’s really hard thinking of something that doesn’t boil down to one of those four concepts, complaining that the quests are same-old same-old would be a step too far even for hypocrite me.

So it’s hardly surprising that it doesn’t seem at all different to the current crop of MMOs to the casual observer.  Especially if that casual observer spent a couple of hours, and didn’t get past the starter zone.  It didn’t seem much different to me.

There were a couple of things that niggled in the back of my headbrain, and it was the good sort of niggling that makes me want to investigate more.

I just like the game.  It’s not the sum of its parts, and it’s not the individual parts that make me like it.  I could start attempting to quantify why I like it, but all I would be doing is repeating a lot of what can be found already on the joyful meeting of minds that is the internets.  I’ll just say things like lovely artwork, world design, and the rifts themselves are wonderful, and intriguing enough to make me willing to fork out the money.

It made me smile as I played, and I like that.  I was happy to fire it up and start playing, and I needed more than a little self-control to put it away and not ruin my fun at launch.

Part of me still wonders if I’m making the right choice.  From what I have seen, Rift does look to be a very good game, and quite possibly the best fantasy-based MMO that I’ve played.  Yet there is still a part of me that wonders if deciding to play is the best thing to do; that part that reminds me of all those hours, days, months, years that I’ll be “throwing away” by choosing to start a new game, and leave existing characters in existing games.

But then again, if this game is better, and leads to more fun than I am currently having, then I’m more than happy to move on; if it was numerically quantifiable, I can’t help thinking that many of the gamers that would quite happily cut their own grannies for gear that’s only a few ilevel points better than their current gear would trample aforementioned grannies in their rush to be at the head of the levelling curve.

Besides, with the pre-order subscription offer it’s half the price of other games.  This helps my bank balance with saving up for holiday spends, as well as the dawning realisation that it will soon be time for my pc base unit to be replaced.  Mmm, new pc…

Cheers,
Hawley.

The Tyranny of Dailies

January 20, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I wasn’t playing World of Warcraft when Daily Quests were introduced.

I was in the middle of one of my frequent breaks from the game, but many of my friends were playing, and they all told me that Dailies were fantastic; they were lucrative, fun, and a great thing to occupy the time between instances and raids.

Gone was meaningless grinding or farming; Dailies were the way of the future.

I felt like such a party pooper when I restarted World of Warcraft, saw my first dailies, tried a few of them, grunted in a similar way to my “I’ve probably just woken up, so until I’ve had a lovely cup of tea I’m not going to be impressed by anything to do with you” sort of way, and then went back to farming nodes and having fun my own way.

Yes, they’re useful for farming rep and cash, but there’s something about the fact that you can only do so many of them per day, and you can only do them once each per day, that really annoys me.  If I want to get something done, I want to get it done now; if I’m going to pull a plaster off, I’ll rip it off in one move, rather than a quarter of an inch a day, every day for 3 months.

And they’re so disgustingly “hardcore” in nature.  I think this is one of the few things that really, really annoys me about them so much.

To get anything from dailies, you *have* to log in each day and do them.  Even if that’s *all* you do when logged in.  They punish the weak and feeble who choose to do something else, because usually the main rewards, those sexy, big, pant-tightening rewards from any chosen rep faction can only be achieved through that daily grind.  Every day missed is another two days waiting, and there is no catching up.

At the moment, I’m trying to limit myself to the Cooking daily.  Whilst I can applaud the use of wearing Tabards to gain rep when in instances and dungeons for most of the rep factions in ‘Clysm, I find it really disheartening that I have to do the daily cooking quests to be able gain the cooking currency to buy recipes to first of all level up, and then to allow me to go raiding without handing over a honking great pile of cash on the auction house.

Ach, it’s a minor gripe at best but I suppose that, to me, they’re one of those things where the game really feels like a grind, and my dislike of repetition doesn’t help.  To me, each instance or raid run feels different, whereas each time I do a daily, it feels just the same as yesterday…

Cheers,
Hawley.

Money Money Money

January 18, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I drafted a post yesterday, and was very close to publishing it.  Then, like all true slackers, I decided to get a quick bit of daily questing done before the massing hoi-poloi logged on, and it was whilst I was logged on that I realised yesterday’s post was just a bit too woolly.

Cue the decision for a re-write, and a bit more effort in thought, with the addition of a downsizing of potential slack (don’t you just love management-speak?).

In yesterday’s proto-post, I had decided that in-game cash was not something I cared about enough, when compared to the potential for in-game experience.

The catalyst was the purchase from the auction house of a Dragonkiller Tunic.  Recently, they’ve been available for approximately 10,000 gold on the alliance auction house.  I’m pretty sure that there are a couple of reasons for this:

  • They’re a useful item for getting geared up for heroics or raiding,
  • They require three Chaos Orbs, which are Bind on Pickup and can only be rolled on by crafters, and only drop in instances.

This means that they’re highly desirable, and a bit of a seller’s market as it’s not like I can collect the Chaos Orbs myself, or even buy them from the auction house.  Add in the usual hike in inflation that comes with a new expansion, and there we go; 10,000 gold for the asking.

I saw one for less than 8,000 gold on Sunday, and that was what got me thinking.  First of all, I’ve made well over 8,000 gold since ‘Clysm’s launch, most of that being me selling what I’ve farmed on the auction house.  At first it was silly amounts, but those prices have dropped over time.

At the same time, I’ve been wondering what it is that I’m actually saving this money for.  It means alts can get an easier ride, but alts can make their own money whilst levelling, easily enough to get them all the skills they’ll need to get to level 85.

Now, I could have asked a guildmember to make a Dragonkiller Tunic for me, with me providing all the materials to get there, but that leaves me waiting for them to get lucky enough to get all three Chaos Orbs, and them having to run enough PUGs to get them.  Which might well not be much fun for them.  Even so, I’d have preferred to throw the golds at them, and part of me feels bad for that.

Simple question time: Is in-game cash better or worse than the potential for in-game experiences?

That Dragonkiller Tunic is the potential for in-game experiences, as it will get me much closer to raid-ready.  Add in the fact that throwing the in-game cash at the problem means getting raid-ready now, as opposed to waiting a few weeks, and then still being behind the rest of the guild due to them hitting newer content.

So, with the flood-gate opened, I blew more cash on those enchantments I couldn’t blag from the guild bank.  And then tidied gear up with gems and what-have-you.  All in all, it was quite cathartic really, and I ended up very close to the point where I was raid-ready.

Wow Heroes, in its impersonal and arbitrary way, says I only need a little more to get me going, as I joked to a mate last night.

I suppose what really made the decision for me was wondering what, exactly, was I going to need all that cash for.

The amount of in-game cash I’ve been making more than covers repair costs, and because I don’t have any crafting characters, it’s not like I need to pay for any materials.  All my characters do is gather materials, so they make money rather nicely.  All of the big cash-sink skills have been bought by Shaman Herewerd, barring super-speedy mount riding, and that’s because Shaman Herewerd doesn’t have a super-speedy mount to ride (and I’ve kept that much cash ready in case I find one).

The guild I’m in has potion makers enough to keep me in raiding flasks, and I can gather everything needed for them.  Cooking has been maxed out, and I’ve got all the recipes I need for now.

So, after gearing up to a raid-ready standard, I don’t have much need for cash.  I think.

Of course, I could be missing plenty of uses for cash, but apart from vanity, I can’t think of much else.

And whilst I can be just as vain as the next player, it seems that vanity purchases are now the domain of the cash-store.  Well, it makes quite a lot of sense; selling items which give an in-game advantage gives too much of an impression that application of money is more important than application of skill when it comes to success.

But satisfying the needs of vanity?  It seems perfectly acceptable to charge real money when a player wants to stand out from among his peers.  So what used to be an in-game cash sink is now an opportunity to sell a fancy mount, a pet, or a set of cool duds to wear in game.

Scratch one more way to blow all that in-game cash.  There are still vanity items to be bought, but there just isn’t the same level of choice in most games any more.

There we go.  Slightly more thought through than yesterday, and I hope a bit more interesting as a result.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Inertia

January 14, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Rift has a lot to answer for.

Since it pinged on my gamedar, something has been percolating in the back of that strange thing I like to think of as my headbrain, and it’s only been poked and prodded by various blogs I’ve read and conversations that I’ve had regarding Rift.

Much of what I’ve read on blogs has boiled down to the author advising the reader to play Rift, or to avoid it like the plague.

Similarly, conversations I’ve had with people regarding Rift have been, at their most basic and pared down, statements of “Rift is made of Win and Kittens”, and “I think Rift smells of poo and wee”.

The same could be said of The Secret World, and Star Wars: The Old Republic.  When they get closer to release, I’m sure there will be similar posts, and similar conversations.

Now, it might have taken a good few weeks for the accidental collision of neurons to knock into each other enough for it to get to the cognital spark stage, and a good few more to even get close to that hallowed state of being known to most as *an idea*, but I think I am finally getting a clue.

Of course, what makes the slow, almost tectonic drift of consciousness all the more entertaining is the fact that part of my job deals with overcoming inertia.  No, I don’t mean overcoming inertia in a really cool Scientific Breakthroughs in Perpetual Motion sort of way, but in overcoming the sedentary nature of people, and training them in Something New.

Something New can quite often seem to be The Worst Thing In The World.  Part of that is drummed into us with the normally sensible statement; “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  Amongst sage pieces of advice, that is one of my favourites, and usually one I try to live by.  However, if someone hadn’t decided that the abacus could do with a bit of fixing, neither of us (that would mean me, the author, and you, dear reader, of this blog) would be here right now.  We’d probably be poring over the cool new abacus you’d have bought with teflon-coated rods and tungsten beads.

Or something.

So I suppose the statement would better be served by adding the phrase “if you happen to be congenitally stupid” to the end.  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it if you happen to be congenitally stupid”.  See, that’s working for me right now.

After all, every three years or so, I decide to *fix* my perfectly working pc by upgrading it a lot.  And, being only *mostly* stupid, it generally goes fine.  Without me *fixing* it, I’d still be using my first pc, and wondering why everyone else gets to play the cool new games whilst I’m still playing Gunship and Commander Keen.

According to the hype, it’s wanting to fix the current crop of MMO games that has brought rise to Rift.  From the Rift FAQ:

“Who is Trion Worlds?

Trion Worlds is the publisher and developer of server-based dynamic online games and original entertainment for the connected world. With a mission to revolutionize interactive entertainment by combining the best elements of online, gaming, and traditional media, Trion has built a technology platform that provides groundbreaking new capabilities and is currently focused on developing and publishing compelling content.”

I’m not sure about you, but that sounds like “It’s broke; we’re fixing it” to me.  I don’t have a problem with that, but others might.

Because most MMO players are only going to have the time, the inclination, or the money to play just one MMO.

Add into the mix that *any* fantasy-based MMO with a graphical user interface (or GOOEY, as the cool techie kids call it) and the possibility to *chat* to other players through a text interface is going to be immediately declared/dismissed as a WoW-clone, there’s going to be a lot of inertia that Trion have to overcome.

I’m going to use World of Warcraft as my indicator here, but I’m pretty sure that you could use the name of any existing MMO in its place.

World of Warcraft (or game of choice) is easy.  It’s comfortable.  It’s where all our friends are.  It’s where all life is.

It’s easy because we know how the game thinks, because we know how the skills work, what the classes do, what the mobs are like, how the combat and crafting works, and on the off-chance that we need or want a bit of help there’s an Imperial Internet’s (it’s a way of measuring information, similar to an Imperial Mile, but with more URLs) worth of websites just waiting for us.

It’s comfortable because anywhere up to the last six years have been spent playing it.  We’re used to that GOOEY thing, and how it responds.  Of course it’s the most responsive, or the best engineered; it’s the one we’re most used to and therefore we can react to its little vagaries and pecadillos best.  But then again, it’s also had six years of work on it, so of course it’s going to be better than anything used by the new kid.

It’s social.  All our mates play, and they’re quite possibly friends we’ve only ever known through the game.  Leaving the game might well mean losing them as friends, and starting a new game means having to make new friends.  World of Warcraft players are all in a gang.  When two meet, there is instant conversation without having to resort to the weather.  Will that happen with any Johnny-Come-Lately MMO?

It’s where all life is.  For six years, off and on, World of Warcraft has welcomed us in.  That’s six years of nostalgia, war stories, boasting, and memories.  Leaving all of that behind is hard; so hard, that most of us will have bounced back in after a period away because we bumped into a mate who was still playing, and all that history just yoinked us back in.

That’s the Inertia, and it calls to us, soothes us, and keeps us all snuggly and warm in the embrace of our favourite games.  Trion worlds need to overcome that inertia, and I really wish them luck.

When I decided that I’d only get Rift if my mates did, I was letting that same inertia dictate my actions.  However, I’m ornery, so as soon as that accidental collision had fully achieved its potential by becoming *an idea*, I pre-ordered Rift.

It will cost me the price of admission to see if Trion really have created something better, but if they have then I’ve not lost much.

Those friendships, those memories; I won’t be throwing them away, they’ll always be there.  And if Rift is being developed by the congenitally stupid?  Well, I’ll be a little bit poorer, but also a little bit wiser.  And I’ll just appreciate my MMOs just that little bit more as a result.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Analysis Paralysis

January 8, 2011 at 10:30 am | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I’m pretty sure that, in marketing terms, the Hype Star that is Rift has now cleared the planet.  Pretty soon, Hype Moff Tarkin will declare in his suitably laissez-faire yet utterly sinister manner; “You may fire when ready”.

As with all much-hyped games, every press release, every statement, every scrap of information is dissected down the most minute level, and details of both the staggered release dates and the various pre-order offers have been similarly dissected and placed under the microscope.

So, in the grandest Hawley traditions, I’m not going to bother doing that myself.  Syp over at Bio Break has a particularly fine analysis of the pre-orders, and I’d probably just copy and paste his post rather than sit down and spend the time and effort creating my own.

Of course, that would probably lead to a course of events that start with accusations of plagiarism, and end all angrily and litigious, which of course Syp would win; his lawyers, being all brash and American, would completely destroy any modest, self-effacing British lawyers I could afford.

So instead, I’m going to gloss over my slacking, and instead hark back to those halcyon days when deciding to play a game meant going to one’s favoured software retailer, picking up a large, shiny box, and exchanging a large stack of filthy lucre for the priviledge of walking out of the retail establishment with aforementioned shiny box without the requirement to run from the blaring alarms and attendant rozzers.

That was a period of time when the most difficult choice I had was in deciding to pick up the World of Warcraft box with the big picture of the Orc head on the front, or the Night Elf head.  That was a surprisingly difficult decision, with far-reaching consequences, I assure you.

I miss those days.  You chose your retailer through customer loyalty, or price of purchase.  And it didn’t matter how you chose to purchase your game, other than requiring that the retailer (whether bricks and mortar, or online) actually had the game *in stock*, or was able to get it to you *in time for launch day*.

I remember when the waters were muddied somewhat by the more common appearance of the mighty Collector’s Edition.  Striding through retail channels like the giant behemoth of fandom it is, it sought to crush all opposition through having a box that was large enough to make astronomers think that an unscheduled eclipse of the sun was occurring, and was crammed to the brim with musical scores, maps, hardcover art books, and enough sundry paraphernalia to require the hiring of a team of street urchins to carry it home, lest it cause back injuries.

Then, it was all about the game; buy game, play game.

Nowadays, I wonder if the Min-Maxing starts now, as there is plenty of opportunity to min-max my way through the various offers available.  It’s crazy, especially when there are separate offers for each retailer.

Even the mighty Collector’s Edition is no longer the apex predator in the gaming jungle, as the newer, slicker, fancier Digital Collector’s Edition rears it’s head; no art books, no music cds, but far better and more in-game items, without the need to leave the giant-sized box in the back garden like some sort of sinister obelisk, with the attendant need to shoo off the occasional family of monkeys that start dancing around it.  And worshipping it.

And those in-game items are making more and more of an impact.  Gone is the level playing field on launch day.  Now we’re getting longer and longer headstart periods, more in-game items, and less of them are purely cosmetic.

It’s not a case of browsing through the internet and finding a price that works; now the truly dedicated can set up a spreadsheet showing all the various options, their cost versus benefit ratios, and then *really* hit the ground running.

With specific reference to Rift, if I was to crumble completely and embarrassingly (I’m pretty sure that both of my regular readers are fully expecting me to purchase Rift, and are no doubt ready with their “You have no willpower” t-shirt and mug collections.  They can be so accusational, yet annoyingly correct about me), I’d go for the Digital Collector’s Edition.

Digital means less physical evidence of a bad purchasing decision; witness my Aion steelbook case, sat lonely, neglected on the shelf.  Witness the various dents that prove it’s useful ability to act as a target whenever something hard needs throwing in a fit of pique.  It also means spending extra money on in-game items (oh, just like spending money in a Free To Play game for in-game items, such as Lord of the Rings Online.  Yes, that *is* the sound of the Hypocrite Alarm going off) that will make a big difference in the game, namely the extra bag space and the mount.

The genius, however, is the Founder’s subscription price.  Sheer, utter genius.  Lifetime subscriptions are a scary amount of cash; I was too late to Lord of the Rings Online to get a lifetime offer off the bat, and at £150 they were a lot to pay before deciding that it was a game I wanted to play for over a year.

No-one wants to feel forced to play a game to get their money’s worth…

But offering a rather savage discount, and in a “this is the only time you’ll get this offer” way, makes me think of subbing up for a six-month stretch because that amount happens to be the amount I pay for my mobile ‘phone.  For just one month’s subscription, not six.

Hell, at that price, I can log in, look at the scenery, and log out again and I will *still* feel like I’ve got my money’s worth for that month.

Part of me misses the days when, regardless of game imbalances, we all started an MMO equal.  We all had the opportunity to start the game on the same day, with the same in-game equipment, with the same opportunities.

The rest of me realises that this is the nature of game, not just MMO, but game marketing nowadays, and that in-game item sweetners are here, and here to stay.  Especially when they’re given out with the *standard* edition of a game.

Make the most, says I.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Have Mount, Will Travel (Part 2)

January 4, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Posted in General | 3 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Stupid admission time.

I have a Draenai paladin.  He was created shortly after The Burning Crusade was released, and over the years has slowly crept up the levels as I fancied a bit of hot paladin action, finally attaining the grand level of 43.

By the way, that’s not the stupid admission bit, it’s just a regular admission of my own inability to concentrate on an alt, much of the time.

The stupid admission bit starts about now, when I state that I decided to check him out now that ‘Clysm has hit, and the levelling bit has changed, and is quicker, yadda-yadda-you-know-the-rest-of-it.

I log into the character, start poking around to see what’s changed, decide to check out the trainers, decide that running is for losers, summon my lovely Paladin warhorse with the fancy blue curtain (yeah, I know it’s called a caparison, but, well, y’know.  It’s a gag) ‘round it, and an elephant appeared.

Confused, I did what any normal, sane person would do.  I blanked, dismissed the elephant mount, resummoned the lovely blue curtained horse.

And found myself staring (again) at a draenai paladin sat on an elephant.

Now imagine this scene repeating itself, yet getting increasingly frantic, over the course of the next 5 or so minutes.

The lovely horse was gone.

Let me provide a little more background here, which will hopefully shed a little more light on the situation.

I like the Draenai model.  It’s big, it’s blue, it’s sort of like a big blue demon thing.  Only it’s a happy, cuddly, big blue demon thing.

I don’t like the racial mount.  That elephantal monstrosity is the down side of playing a draenai, as far as I’m concerned.  Admittedly, many others like it, and I don’t wish to state that they are wrong, wronger, wrongest about it.  But I really, really don’t like that elephant mount.

After some investigation, it appears that Draenai paladins now have a particularly un-paladiney elephant as a summoned mount, rather than a lovely blue-curtained horse.  Big fat sigh.

Maybe, if I were less oblivious, I’d have known about the change to a more ‘racial’ style of mount.  Maybe, if I were less forgetful, I’d remember that I *did* find out about this change, but discounted it as the patch notes of a crazy person, and consigned that nugget of information to the “Crazy Stuff: To Delete” portion of my headbrain.

Whatever the true state of affairs is, it does not change the fact that I was completely blind-sided by this change, and it made me cry real human tears.  Only on the inside though, as I am a man, and real men are only supposed to cry on the inside.

I now look at that poor unfortunate Paladin, and wonder if he’ll ever get to do anything ever again.  Unlike Shaman Herewerd, who got to grind up his Stormwind rep so that he could have a horse mount, that Paladin never had to worry.  Until now, of course.

And whilst it’s a lot easier to grind rep with the four base cultures than it ever has been, it’s still a bit of an @rse.  Besides, I really, really liked that horse.  I mean, *really* liked it.  I may joke about the curtains, but I really, really like them.

It’s that bad, that I’m very much considering deleting the character, and recreating it as a dwarf or human, just to get a mount that isn’t a stupid elephant.

For those of you tempted to get out the cheese-board so that I can have something to go with my whine, there is a reason to this ramble.

There’s very little that we, as players, can influence within our chosen games.  There’s surprisingly little choice, so when I choose a character, and invest in a race and a class, that’s the biggest, most influential, most important choice I will make for the entirety of a game.

Part of the choice of Paladin was, for me, the mount.  It sounds really shallow to say it, but there we go.  Big blue demon on a horsey.  It was one of the things that sold the package to me.  The multi-role nature of the class was part of it, the available races influenced it, and the exclusive mount were all part of what sold me on creating a paladin.

And now part of that package has been changed, and suddenly it’s not my choice any more.  That stings, it really does.

Solutions?

Option: Suck It Up.
Yeah, man up, it’s only a game.  Get used to the elephant, idiot.

Option: Apply Cash.
Most things can be sorted with the handy application of cash, and this is no exception.  I could just throw money at Blizzard until they change the race of the character to a human or dwarf.

Option: Grind Rep.
As it says.  Get the rep sorted, get a racial mount such as a big cat, or a ram, or whatever.  Anything but a (shudder) stupid elephant.

Option: Slash And Burn.
Delete the character, start a new dwarf or human.  Levelling is so easy nowadays, anyway.

Option: Do Nothing.
The true slacker option.  In the course of *entire years* he’s got to level 43.  That’s not slacking, that’s sheer, unadulterated laziness.  I’ve ignored the character so much, the lovely horse probably died of boredom.

I shall probably ponder what to do over an obscenely large mug of tea, bearing in mind how much of a slacker I am, and that I might just go for Option: Do Nothing purely because making a decision would probably occupy more brain power than it’s worth.

At least, until I get a hankering for playing a paladin again.

Cheers,
Hawley.

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