Setting Off

March 25, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

All MMOs have them.  For some players they define the nature of any given chosen race, whilst for others they’re a just a speedbump before getting to the meat of the game.  There can be one of them, or many of them.  Quite often, they’re all a player will see of a particular game, and all MMOs have them.

But I suppose the biggest question for me is:

What is a starter zone *for*?

Now, I freely admit to being somewhat oblivious when it comes to official forums.  I recently, in my role of guild officer, posted a recruiting message thingy on Rift’s official forums, and that left me feeling rather strange in my tummy.

Part of me felt a little brave and excited, having entered the lion’s den.  Another part of me felt a little soiled; instead of lurking rarely (and laughing at all the misguided fools and their patently ridiculous wittering on) I was choosing to actively participate in proceedings.  But I digress.

I’ve been aware of some consternation and complaint that there is only one starter zone per faction in Rift, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t care.  In fact, I quite welcome it.

I remember Warhammer Online’s multiple starting zones.  One for each race in each faction.  They were lovely zones, oozing with character, and part of a very strong game concept.  Which, of course, fell apart when players got involved; pretty soon, the dwarf and elf zones were abandoned after the initial surge of players, and everyone just moved to the Empire for levelling purposes because that’s where everyone else was.

Age of Conan went for the complete opposite, with one multi-layered, highly engineered zone that had both multiplayer and solo elements, with the solo side a fantastic story that would have worked well in many single player games.  Of course, it was a shame that the rest of the game was nowhere nearly as well detailed in terms of quests and story, and that the fantastic solo quest line just seemed to make players think in solo rather than group terms.

Now we have Rift.  Most of my play has been on the Defiant side, but I did complete the Guardian side during one of the later Beta events, and to be perfectly honest, I have no problem with there being just one starter zone.

The Defiant starter zone is cool.  There’s a part of me that loves an “escape from an apocalyptic future by using time-travel to change the past” storyline, and it made me all squiffy and special.  Due to the nature of the story line, I’m not surprised there’s just the one.  Sorry Kelari and Bahmi players, your racial starter zones were gobbled up by the big narsties on their way here.  Yes, I’m being all Eth-ist and assuming they’d hold out longest.  Or something.

Ultimately, I don’t care whose homeland it is.  Because the important thing is what that starter zone is *for*.

To my mind, starter zones are there for three main reasons (in no particular order);

  • To teach the basics of the game
  • To try and turn interested tourists into long-term residents
  • To establish the background story for the game

Anything after that is pure gravy because, ultimately, it’s the zone I’ll spend least amount of time in.  Even counting the repetition required by the judicious and willful addition of alts, it’s *still* the zone I’ll spend least amount of time in.

All that I care about is that the starter zone fulfils the above three objectives.  I want to have the game grab my attention, I want the game world to intrigue me, and I want to know how to play the game by the time I get out of that starter zone a few short hours later.

Ultimately, I’d much rather game developers didn’t spend time creating six or so starting zones when two will do, because that’s time that could have been spent on later level zones, or instances, or PvP zones; not something that will be completed and forgotten about in a couple of hours.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Moments

March 16, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Last night I was out soloing in Stonefields.  It’s a fun place, and I’ve progressed through about half of it.

For a while last night, during the late afternoon/early evening, it was buzzing.  A major Death invasion popped, so there were plenty of rifts as well as invasion forces buzzing about.

Fantastic, thinks I.  A bit of rifting, a lovely chunk of xp to take me towards level 26, and with luck some people to sit and heal.

After a short while, I had one of those moments in gaming that sticks.  And by sticks, I mean something that I can bore my grandchildren with when I’m old(er), senile, and think they’re munchkins come to steal my socks.

To the west of Granite falls, there is a wardstone that is precious close to a rift-pop, and they were close enough that I could stand between them, and heal the group fighting against the rift, and the group fighting to defend the wardstone.  Both groups were luckily a part of the same raid, but it was a small raid with just a couple of groups in it, and as such I was the only healer.

That’s right.  Two small groups, a dump-truck full of monsters, and one Hawley.

And for a full five minutes I was, to use the Elite ranking system, more than my usual Deadly and all the way into Elite.  I kept that raid upright, chucking heals, using cooldowns, and generally having a ball.

I had hit one of those Moments, one where the rest of the world seems to be hanging on *my* actions, and mine alone.  It was through my actions that every member of the raid stayed upright, it was through my actions that our desperate struggle continued, and it was through my actions that we held out long enough for another group to arrive; this swayed things enough in our favour that we won both fights.

What makes me remember a game is Moments such as this.  Those times where suddenly, I feel like the most important person on the server.  A great game will give the opportunity for everyone to have these Moments, because it’s from these moments that great war stories come.

It’s also what makes me want to log on and play again.  Well done, Rift.  Keep it up.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Tea-less

February 11, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Every so often, I get to make a “No-Tea” decision.

They are called such because it’s such a simple decision that I don’t need to sit down with a lovely cup of tea in order to reach that decision.  Whether a “Yes” or a “No”, the issues involved are so simple, so cut-and-dried, that no long and tea-inspired thought process is required.

Today was one such day.

I received an email today from SOE to tell me that they are “…thrilled to invite you to come back to play for FREE from 2/10/2011 – 2/21/2011”.  Come back and play?  Well, Everquest, of course.  On their new-fangled-old-fangled Fippy Darkpaw server.

Others have commented on it; We Fly Spitfires and West Karana both posted about it when the concept was still new enough to be called such.  I, however, am the sort of curmudgeonly soul that just can’t find it in himself to fully embrace this whole retro/nostalgia fad that society is currently entranced with.

In the case of this whole 1980s retro-fad it’s because I was there, and while there was a lot of fun there was also a lot of shit, and no matter how people try and polish it, a turd is still a turd.

Now I get the offer of reliving the MMO equivalent of the 1980s, thanks to SOEs very kind offer of 11 whole and complete free trial days.  Now, the sharp-eyed might note arrived in my mailbox a day after it started, but it’s not my intention to deconstruct their email in a negative way.

Well, not quite.  I appreciate that the delivery of emails can be delayed, after all.

But no, I will not be partaking of SOEs very kind and profit-motivated offer.  I have fond memories of playing Everquest, but they won’t stand up to much scrutiny.

Yes, it was my first foray into MMO gaming, and I played many fun hours, but the simple fact is that if the game was that good, I’d still be playing.  If I missed it that much, I wouldn’t have waited years for a free trial.

I will freely admit that I’m not SOEs greatest fan.  Or any sort of SOE fan.  I played Everquest, Star Wars Galaxies, and Everquest 2 before I decided that they just seemed naturally able to suck all the joy out of the MMO genre.  So many of their design choices just seemed bad; in their attempts to stop exploits and practices such as twinking and power-levelling, they just made playing not-fun.

There was one ponderable element to the email, though.  One that’s definately worth putting the kettle on for; that this is a free trial, not a free server.  Now, I’m not aware of how much playing on Fippy Darkpaw would cost, but considering that there are some quite lovely subscription-free games out there (such as Lord of the Rings Online) why would I want to pay for a game that’s over a decade old, and shows it in so many ways?

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.

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.

What a difference, a “D” makes…

November 29, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I’ve had that song running around my head for a couple of days now, just with that slight modification to the signature line.

Why?

Well, Skooge is no more.

There’s a part of me that will miss Undead Roguey Skooge.  He wasn’t my first World of Warcraft character, but for the longest time he was my identifier with World of Warcraft.  If anything in- or out-game changed, my first thoughts would be how Skooge would be affected.

In fact, I was so wrapped up in Skooge that I didn’t play alts.  Imagine that; Hawley without alts.  This was even in a time before Hawley.  Imagine that, too.

Now, he’s gone.  Just so much dust in the wind.

And after handing over £20, a quick faction change, the addition of skin, a new face, and the addition of one simple letter “D”, Skoodge is the new kid in town.

The faction change is a bit of a slap in the face, though.  I suppose it is final proof  that, for me at least, game beats all.

It beats nostalgia; I had good times and bad as a member of the Horde, but it seems that “For the Horde!” goes only so far with me, and just not far enough.

It beats characterisation; So Skooge was undead?  Not any more.  He’s cured!   What, I need a role-playing proof rationale?  No, no I don’t.  Role-playing in MMOs is something I do for fun; it’s not the reason for playing.  I will just have to endure the censure of any role-players out there, secure in the knowledge that I deserve it.

It beats my sensibilities about “Value Added Services”; no Sparkly Pony for me.  Neither small panda nor some midget demon thing sway me, and the aforementioned Sparkly Pony just washes over me.  I pay my subscription; that’s all I want to pay.  Yet as a waged adult, I get to decide how I will solve a problem.  Will it be through application of time and effort?  That would mean levelling a character from 1 to 80 on the Alliance side.  Or will I solve this problem through the application of cold, hard cash?  That would mean availing myself of that Value Added Service.  In this case, a few months of game-play is worth far more to me than the £20 fee of changing sides, so there we go.

So, kids, here’s the scoop.  Game is king on Planet Hawley.

The reason Undead Rogue Skooge is now Human Rogue Skoodge is the prospect of better game.  Plain and simple.

More of my friends play on the Alliance side.  As a result, most of my playing is on the Alliance side.  From a pragmatic perspective, that means more chance of instances, more chance of raiding, more chance of fun.

Yet there is a part of me that will miss the Horde.  I’m already pondering creating a horde character somewhere, and going through the levelling from zero to hero.  The question is what to choose, really.  Probably a priest.

Part of me thinks that I should just man up and play.  I’ve devoted hours of my life to furthering the aims and objectives of the Horde; what have they done for me?

Smart money says I’ve got some fun memories of some fun gaming.  But now the gaming isn’t as much fun as it could be, and it is, after all, the game that’s the thing.  Having the most fun gaming is something that I want; that must be the main difference between a perpetual world and a game.

In a game, we shouldn’t have to do chores.  I’m reminded of Hot Tub Time Machine, when one of the characters has a Second Life character serving hard time in chokey.  Fun gag, with a lovely comment about perpetual worlds.

The last few months have made me realise that the needs of the real world outweigh those of the online world, and that the callow perpetual world dreams of my youth are nothing more than dreams.

The adult (with monkey-brain) that I’ve become has realised over the last few months that all I want at the moment is a fun game, because that’s all the time I can spare from the rest of my life.  I have social and work commitments that don’t want to share their time with MMO gaming; if I’m going to be doing chores, I’d rather do them in the real world, than whilst pretending to be an Undead Rogue.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Shark-like

November 8, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Posted in General | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

After the Great Update for Lord of the Rings Online, I did indeed log in.  But whilst I felt that a number of screens had lost their previous air of genteel refinement in favour of a couple of rather loud and brash Cash Shop! buttons, all in all it seemed to be pretty much business as usual in Lotroburg.

Which is nice; whilst I might have an instinctive dislike of the Free-to-Play model, that doesn’t mean I will only be happy when hordes of subscription-less barbarians have put The Shire to the torch.

No, if anything, Lord of the Rings Online is *the* Free-to-Play game out there.  Put together out of loving box-price admission and brought to life with the whole premium subscription model, if there’s a game to play that is less likely to need to run the gamut of Free-to-Play conspiracy theories, it’s this one.

As it was though, I didn’t play long.  Right now, Lord of the Rings Online isn’t calling to me.  It’s got to deal with a resurgence of World of Warcraft and the old-school game-play of Fallen Earth, and is therefore coming in fourth in the MMO stakes, behind Eve Online.

That’s not to say I’ll never be back, just that right now the holiday continues.

What’s that?  The resurgence of World of Warcraft?

Aye.  What a difference a patch makes.  Firing up World of Warcraft after a few months’ absence as well as into the face of that new Patch 4 malarky meant some extreme confusion.  The new Talent Tree systems might be old news to everyone else, but for me they were scary-new.

Cue a short trip to Wowhead for a play with their talent calculators, and I realised what was going on.  Back to Skooge, then.

Now, I’d been one for moaning about Rogues in the past.  I know, I know, I try not to moan and whinge, and I fail.  Miserably.  I do try and be positive, but sometimes the teenager in me just wants to get out and make strange and unhappy shapes in the church of goth.

Ahem.  Back to Rogues.  Glass hammer, fantastic dps, but can’t even stand up in a light breeze.

I used to love playing a Rogue.  All that sneaking and shivving meant that most of the time when playing, it felt like I was some sort of hyperactive shark, cruising through the shallow waters of Azeroth, choosing my prey from amongst the happy-go-lucky mobs swimming in the shallow end.

There really was a feeling of cool; a Rogue had to be smart, and pick their battles wisely.  And when they attacked, it was in the form of a screaming ball of sharp and nasty pointy poisoned things, where a fight was won within the first 2 seconds.  If a fight lasted longer it was just because the mob was a bit tougher than most, but too stupid to realise it had already lost.

Then came the dark times.  The time when Blizzard seemed to be constantly ramping up the damage dealing capabilities of all the other classes, even to the point of surpassing the rogue; without a function other than deal damage, that’s when you know the love-affair is over.  Especially when the healer classes were out-damaging the Rogue…

Yeah, I know.  QQ moah, Rogue-boi (please forgive my attempts to emulate the patois of the leet masses.  My old age means I’m contractually obliged to make passing attempts to “get down with the kids” every so often, and fail feebly.  kthxbai).

My response was just to stop playing a Rogue.  Shamans killed stuff close up, and in addition had the whole range thing *and* healing; what’s not to like?  And, like all of the other classes, you could turn up to any given target-rich environment, and just start at one end and kill everything on the way to the other side with minimal waiting.

Unlike that poor, poor rogue.  The one that had to run away from the scary mobs that were adds, or who had to stop and eat after each fight because they took too much damage.  The one that either had top-of-the-tier gear and did well, or didn’t and failed.

It’s fun being a Shaman.  There is a lot of skill to playing the class well, but there’s also an element of being able to step through the swinging doors of the saloon John Wayne style, before clearing the room without breaking a sweat.

Rogues just can’t do that.

Well, they still can’t.  But I decided to go for an Assasination build, as a bit of a return to the Skooge of old.  And the carnage began.

In the time it took to learn what skills worked best in which situations, evil Recount told me my average dps had gone up by over 100.  No new gear, no levelling, just the change in the Patch.

For the first time in years, playing Skooge gave me that same “this is so cool” feeling.  Suddenly, every mob was a bunny wabbit, and I was the apex predator.  Strike from nowhere, and disappear just as rapidly leaving only a recently looted corpse as the only sign of anything happening.  It’s a heady feeling, really it is.

The skills are much nicer to use now, especially now that Blizzard have razor-sharpened the talents available:

  • Mutilate: the skill information recommends that you never use Sinister Strike again, and it’s right.  Mutilate is just wonderful, ensuring a high combo-point generation, with maximum stabbage.
  • Expose Armour: I just didn’t use Expose armour in the past.  Those combo points just seemed far better spent as extra damage, rather than the potential to do damage later.  In a game of more tactical combat such as Lord of the Rings Online such a skill would be useful.  But in the fast and frenetic world of five-clicks-and-death, extending your combat time to 7 or more clicks just seemed like the worst sort of crazy-talk.  But now, with the opportunity to have Expose Armour return the combo points spent on it, Expose Armour is the skill I now habitually use before Eviscerate or Envenom.  It truly has become the Prodigal Skill.  Yay!
  • Eviscerate/Envenom: This Autumn, fashion pundits are saying that big explodey finishing moves are back, and I for one am happy.  Kicking off a five point Eviscerate is as much fun as it was at level 2, if not more.  Nice!
  • Recuperate:  Well, if any skill was the World of Warcraft equivalent of Robbie Williams rejoining Take That, Recuperate is it.  Add in the ability to power it with those unused combo points still on the recently departed, and it’s as if Blizzard looked down from on high, and said; “Let there be less downtime between fights”.  It’s fantastic.  Sod the rationale for it, this skill means I can fill Skooge’s bags with looted trez, rather than whatever health-generating food is available in the local tavern.

These revelations have meant that I’m going through all the available Rogue skills, trying them out and seeing what works with Skooge’s build, what doesn’t, and what’s just a giggle to use.  It’s fun, and it’s refreshing.

Playing Skooge is *fun* again.

I know that Shaman Herewerd will remain my choice of character to play when Cataclysm…  erm, “cataclyses”? Azeroth, but Skooge will no longer be the ugly stupid kid kept under the stairs.

No, thanks to the changes to Rogues, Skooge will most likely be the go-to character when a change of pace is required.

That’s a great thing.  In all my questing for trez and levels, sometimes I forget about the sheer joy to be found in playing a character that’s just fun.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Stuff Changes

November 3, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

I suppose it’s part of the nature of a thing that it changes.

As an example, a cup of tea changes from lovely and hot to cold and nasty.  Not usually around me, but scientific research has proved it as fact, and who am I to argue with facts pronounced by a person in a white lab-coat?

Thoughts are the same.  I used to think that thoughts were immutable, that I could *never* have a wrong thought.  But then I got older and realised that the ability to change one’s thoughts is a life-skill that leads to less heart-attacks, and more invitations to parties from right-minded individuals.  Besides, close-minded people can be no fun.

I say this by way of introduction to my latest mental u-turn, in the hopes that I will appear less hypocritical.

That U-turn being my decision to have undead rogue Skooge turn his coat by becoming all alive again, and therefore leaving the Horde and joining the Alliance.

The reason for this is change.

Undead Skooge came into being because I’d never had the opportunity to play an undead character before.  It was a wonderful change from all those humans, human sub-types, elves, dwarfs, and…  gnomes.

And as I was playing with a group of friends who were all Horde, Horde I stayed.  It was some time before I started playing as Alliance, and that was largely due to that special sort of attrition->return cycle that saw everyone split up and me joining another group of friends who are playing Alliance.

Add to the fact that Skooge is languishing somewhat in the Northrend doldrums; what I found really easy as a Shaman is longer and more annoying as a Rogue.  And as I’m largely soloing, it gets old pretty quick.  Changing sides means a higher likelihood of more opportunity for hot group action, and that means he’s more likely to get more play.

And now is the best time to sort him out, seeing as we’re at the end of the world (as we know it), and that great leveller The New Expansion means More Fun For Old Characters.

Yet there is a part of me that will miss the ol’ fella in his original, raggedy-clothed, wonky-jawed, toes-poking-through-his-boots glory.  A couple of shivs and a bad attitude seems so much more fun when it’s an undead running around with them, rather than Regular-John-Human (no disrespect to all the Regular-John-Humans out there; I will, of course, be joining you all soon enough).

I will also miss that whole “For the Horde!” thing.  At one time membership of the Horde was a cool thing.  Life was more fun in the Horde.  The NPCs were more interesting, the quests a little darker, and life was more fun as a result.  When chatting with other World of Warcraft players, being Horde meant you were the sort of cool kid that played hooky from school, smoked, and kissed girls.

Yet that changed with The Burning Crusade, and was continued with Wrath of the Lich King.  Suddenly many quests were identical, and not just the ones from the multi-faction groups.  The differences between Horde and Alliance disappeared.  There are many posts out there discussing the full ramifications for such game design, but for Skooge the net result is that his lifestyle choice just isn’t the cool one any more.

And I don’t think that cool will ever return.  The damage has been done, and it’s irreperable.

The end.  Time to take off that “Horde ’til I die (and then a bit longer)” t-shirt.  Part of me feels like a traitor, but that’s the part that is stuck in the past, 5 years ago, and convinced that the Alliance is Squad Beige.

As with all things, this decision might well be subject to change.  I might decide to level up Skooge as Horde, then swap sides.  Or never swap sides, and leave Skooge as a memento to good times past.  Or he might even stay, and see what life is like post-cataclysm.

Unlikely, though.

Cheers,
Hawley.

You have created: 2×4

May 13, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Posted in General | 3 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Yes, in Fallen Earth Wol created a 2×4.  For those unaware a 2×4, or “2by4” as the cognoscenti call it, is a length of wood 2 inches thick and 4 inches wide.  Wol uses his to bludgeon the post apocalypse (anything and everything in it) to death.  So far that includes evil fake Franklin’s Riders, nasty coyotes (packs of them! Packs!) and even vicious plant thingies.

I/Wol like it because it might be slow, but it does a huge wodge of damage, and looks exactly like a 2by4 should.  Like a plank of pain.

It’s far cooler than a pool cue, or even a baseball bat (which are other options).  And when the time comes to leave our 2by4 for something a little less brutally unpolished, such as a sword, there will be a heart-felt decommissioning ceremony, with tears, testimonials, and a lone bugler playing the last post.

We love our plank of pain.

Why?

Whenever someone mentions gear, equipment or trez, I’ll usually state that MMO gaming is all about pretty pictures and ugly code.  And that includes the items we pick up and use in them.  They’re not real, they don’t exist anywhere but within the game, and they’ll last as long as the game servers do, and no longer.

But despite that, I still get attached to the items my characters get to use in games.

Sometimes it will be because the item just appeals to my sense of humour.  Running around the GC with a 2by4 belabouring post-apocalyptic monsties about the head repeatedly?  That makes me girly-giggle every time.  Sometimes it’s because a weapon is carried for a long time; Skooge carried Heartseeker in one hand or the other for what felt like forever.  And then there are the weapons that are strived for, from instance run to instance run, from raid to raid.  Minstrel Hawley’s Mace of Song was earned through drops from a number of instances, and took some time to gain.

And then there are the crafted items.  Whilst most games use crafted items as a secondary, less powerful item for use whilst waiting for a phat lewt drop from an instance or raid boss, I’ve always really appreciated the items that other players have made for me, and the ones I’ve made have always felt that little bit more special than a random drop.  Time is the real currency of MMOs, so when we make an item for someone else, we’re gifting our time, and I appreciate it when others do that for me.

I do get sentimental about these items; I’ll spend time and effort acquiring them, whether that be finding the materials for crafting or running an instance or raid long enough for the item to drop, and for me to get my grubby mitts on it.

Yet I balk at virtual goods in the real world.  One of the reasons I dislike the various mp3 stores is because I’d rather spend the same amount of money on a physical cd, and I’m willing to wait a couple of days to do that.  Same goes for films.

Do in-game items have the same weight as other virtual goods?

Maybe it’s because I’m not paying for each individual item, but I’m paying for the game itself.  That payment entitles me to the opportunity to attain any and all the items, as opposed to paying specifically for each individual item.

It’s also highly likely that “It’s a game” reasoning that means a phat epixxx leet sword o’doomy goodness will never have the same weight as an mp3 or film in my own head.  I’ve held cds and dvds, but I’ll never have the opportunity to hold an in-game item in my real hands.

Should in-game items have the same weight as other virtual goods?

That’s the question.  Whilst I might not see that phat epixxx leet sword o’doomy goodness as a “real” item, it’s just as “real” as the downloaded music of some popular beat combo, and I’ve paid real money for both.

For the phat epixxx leet sword o’doomy goodness I’ve paid real money in terms of box price of entry, and a subscription.  And then, unlike approaching some online music retailer with a loaded credit card to complete my purchase, I’ve spent further time and effort in the game itself to get that weapon.  Or armour, or mount, or even a stack of consumables.

In-game items must have some weight; enough games are now offering in-game items as sweetners for both pre-orders and regular sales.  And we’re not talking just Collector’s Editions any more; standard editions are sometimes shipping with a bucketful of in-game booty.

Of course, over all my rambling pondering lies the spectre of account theft.  If in-game items really were valueless, then why are people all too willing to steal accounts for their items and trez?

The stuff our characters wear and wield does seem to have a weight to them, for all their virtual nature.  They have a financial weight, and they have a sentimental weight.

And then there’s the weight of a 2by4, cleaning up the GC one skull at a time.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Does the War(craft) mean anything anymore?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,
Hawley.

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