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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The Inevitable New Year’s Resolution Post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We just won’t mention marathons.  Ever.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Filled with Crunchy Goodness.

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

In 1974, Dungeons and Dragons was first published.

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

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

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

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

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

Enter Rift from Trion Worlds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will play you if my mates do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas.

Cheers,
Hawley.

My Favourite Monstie

May 31, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Posted in General | 2 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Running ‘round killing stuff is a staple part of most MMOs.  Whether it’s as part of a quest, part of self-defence whilst travelling from Point A to Point B, or just for fun and profit, there are plenty of monsties around.

Sometimes a monster manages to elevate itself above the commons, to rise up from the morass, to stand out and shout towards the very heavens; “I am here, and I am special”.  Well, it does for me anyway.

In the original Everquest, it was lions.  Just as I’m settled into the long, long wait for mana and health to replenish, up pops a lion (from out of nowhere) and bites me.  It’s thoroughly grey to me, and hitting it once is enough to start it running for cover, but not enough to kill it.  So the dratted thing runs off, is really annoying to chase down, and when it feels brave enough (usually when it has just enough health for me to not one-shot it) it comes back and bites me again.  Of course, I could just pop a spell in it’s fat ares, but of course that just uses up some mana that I’m trying to replenish.

I still hate those lions.  With a passion that few will understand.  Annoying, niggly gits.

In Lord of the Rings Online, it’s goblins.  It’s as if someone tattooed All Goblins Must Be Pwned on the monitor when I’m playing.  They way they move, the things they say, the way they look; everything just makes me want to destroy them.  And yes, I will go out of my way to kill them.  And then /dance over their digital corpses.

Now there is a new candidate in the Hawley MMO Hall of Infamy; the Hermit Crab.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it even a crab?

Fallen Earth has some weird squacky monsties, such as the various types of mutants and giant insects.  But right now, in Sector 1, the Hermit Crib is the winner.

Just look at it.  That’s a big nasty lobster/crab thing, using an old crt monitor or a bin as a shell.  And my geography is a little weak; how far is the Grand Canyon from any large body of water?

Never mind.  They just look wonderful.  There’s a wonderful sense of humour and imagination involved in the way they look, which makes me giggle whenever they’re near.

Of course, whenever they’re near, they’re attacking me.  They have an aggro-range that’s roughly the size of a Sector, so if they can see you, then they’re scuttling towards you in Attack Pattern CLAAAAW!  They also like the taste of horse; my horse has inadvertently ended up tanking for me when the Hermit Crab equivalent of a Spar Gang (I’m afraid you have to be English to get that reference completely.  Sorry) descends on me (from a few game miles away).

And then there’s the loot that you can harvest from them.  Crab Meat is only to be expected, but then there’s a cornucopia of scrap metals, as well as the generic animal possibilities of Tainted Meat and Weak Biochemicals.  They’re just wonderfully random to harvest, as if they’re the Kinder Egg of monsties.

Just without the chocolate.

It's going for the face

I love Hermit Crabs.  They make me smile, even when they’re attempting to eat my face.  Or my horse’s face.  They hit Fabulous on the Hawley Scale of Fabulousness; they’re a sign of a well-developed sense of humour and imagination amongst the creators of the game, as well as a willingness to do something a little wackier than most.  And the best thing about them is that their inclusion in the game world doesn’t seem forced.  They seem to belong as part of the natural flora and fauna of the game world.

Lovely.

Cheers,
Hawley.

T’was the night before Payday…

November 25, 2009 at 4:38 pm | Posted in General | 2 Comments
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Wotcha everyone,

Today, as I write this, is Wednesday.  Tomorrow is Payday.

To everyone else getting paid tomorrow, Happy Day Before Payday!

For a whole three minutes, I shall feel rich.  Beyond my wildest dreams rich.  Of course, after those three minutes various standing orders, transfers and direct debits go out, and I am poor again.  But what a glorious three minutes!

Regular readers (both of you) will also be aware that for the next 11 months I am cash-poor as I need to save every penny I can, or be horrendously in debt forever.  Probably.

Regular readers will also remember that I decided after my brief and free flirtation with Fallen Earth that I would wait until payday before deciding whether or not to buy it.  The reasoning is simple:

I don’t have much cash. It’s not a case of not being able to buy *any* toys this month, but if I am going to blow my limited budget at the beginning of the Salary Month, then I want to make sure I’m buying the right game.  As opposed to Dragon Age, or Modern Warfare 2.  Or Left 4 Dead 2.    Mmm, heavy weaponry goodness…

By spending the time to think about it, I’m doing the equivalent of wandering around the toy shop looking at everything before deciding what I really want, rather than buying the first shiny toy that catches my eye, but isn’t what I really wanted.

I’m also worried about falling back into the MMO Tourism trap.  I find misguided brand loyalty to be a bit silly, and I’ll quite happily walk away from something if I’m not enjoying it, but I’d rather be sure of whether I’ll enjoy Fallen Earth or not before I start spending money on it.  I enjoyed my time in the free trial, and that sense of enjoyment hasn’t faded in the last couple of weeks.  In point of fact, when I heard about the latest free trial, my first thought was; “Cool, free game time”, rather than thinking of it as another chance to see what the game was like.  Which I’d like to think is a good sign that I’ll enjoy the game for longer than the first four weeks.

Free trials are good.  I like free trials.  They’re both free, and a great way to get a look at a game.  I’d say they’re far, far better than a beta test for finding out about a game, as what you’re playing is the finished product, rather than a work in progress that may or may not be representative of what will be released.  You also get to interact with players, rather than player-testers, in a free trial, and that can make all the difference in an MMO.

Yes, I want Fallen Earth.  It offers a wonderful opportunity to experience a different way of playing than that offered by most available MMOs:

  • I can bimble my way around.  It’s not a fully sandbox world, but it’s closer to it than most of the modern crop of MMOs, and that means I’ve much more choice about playing the game the way I want to.
  • I can indulge in some meaningful crafting again.
  • I can beat mutant chickens to death with a lead pipe.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Hawley the Lost

August 28, 2009 at 5:48 pm | Posted in LotRO, Moria | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

The other night, whilst mooching my way around Moria, I was presented with this view:

Hawley, lost again

Now, I may complain about having got lost in Moria the moment I entered, and remaining lost ever since, but this was one of those moments in gaming that I love.

I’m not really an explorer.  A old and very dear friend of mine would take a sub-level 10 gnome rogue exploring in the original Everquest (back when it was cool, y’know) and see what sights he could see with it.  The answer?  Quite a surprising amount.  We used to get the screenshots as “Wish-you-were-here” postcards.  Sometimes he’d buzz level 60 raids as they were about to go into a raid area.  Genius.  If there was an opportunity for online special forces, he’d have been in there.

I, on the other hand, am an inadvertent explorer.  I just don’t feel the urge to go and hunt out the dark and remote corners of a map.  Being some sort of awful achievist, they’re just not exciting enough when compared to smacking something royally about the head.  I know, I’m a healing thug.

Having said that, I just love that moment.  That moment when you see a view, and something about the artwork and artistry involved in creating that view *just clicks*, and I get to gaze in awe and wonder at it.

I had been looking for a quest target, but suddenly I had to investigate the shiny thing more.  So all thoughts of questing aside, I went to explore.  And promptly got a better view:

Hawley, slightly more lost

Fabulous.  Who’d have thought that Moria, with all its dark faceless caves and dour, stentorian halls could have something so…  blue.  And it’s not just the colour palette, but the sheer conceptual bravado:  A Waterworks.  No, *The* Waterworks.  Of course somewhere the size of Moria would have plumbing, but done in the style of the finest builders and engineers in Middle Earth.  And it is the sheer size and scope of The Waterworks that really hammered that belief home.  Only a race born to build would even conceive of such a place on such a grand scale.

Much as I love the look of many of the zones in World of Warcraft (apart from Azshara.  Hates you, Azshara!), one of the things about Lord of the Rings Online that makes it special is the thought that this version of Middle Earth could, just could, exist in the real world.

And one of the things I really like about The Waterworks is that it could, just could, exist in the real world too.  So what did I do?  Well, I went in there, and found stuff to smack about the head repeatedly.  Fabulous!

Games designers are all too often far too anonymous.  I however, would like to send a thank you to the person or persons behind the creation of The Waterworks.  For a surprisingly long time, you made a jaded gamer see something wonderful, rather than just another place to go and collect xp.

Cheers,

Hawley.

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