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Archive for December, 2010

“Watch Out For Bronte!” or “Humbled, Honored, Confused”

December 31, 2010 3 comments

I didn’t know about this until yesterday, but apparently Massively named this little blog as one of the blogs to watch out for in 2011 as part of their top ten blog list for 2010. I am humbled, honored and frankly a little confused. When you get put in the same list as people like Syp, John, SynCaine, Gordon, Tipa, Zubon and Ravious, Larisa, Spinks, Ardwulf and numerous others, it can be a little intimidating and a tad confusing as to why you were selected. Thank you Shawn, you weirdo!

As for watching out for this little blog in 2011, that’s right, you better watch out for this blog come next year, which, coincidentally, is in less than 24 hours!

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYBODY!


Categories: Bronte

“Lara Croft: Tomb Raided” or “Reforging an Icon”

December 31, 2010 Leave a comment

I have been a Lara Croft fan for a long time. I remember first playing the original title back in the 90′s and being in awe of the awesome game mechanics and the cutting edge graphics. The action adventure was fresh, challenging and the titular heroin wasn’t a bad sight either. Over the course of time, and with each successive iteration of the IP, I grew increasingly disappointed with the overall experience.

The series managed to pique my interest again when Crystal Dynamics took over from Core Design, and Underworld especially breathed new life into the franchise. The series took a strange turn with Lara Croft: Guardian of the Light, which wasn’t a bad addition to the series, but it wasn’t groundbreaking or even above average.

A few days back I came across a gritty image of Lara Croft, one that piqued my curiosity. I followed the story further to Game Informer. Crystal Dynamics is now working on a new game in the series, a rebirth title simple called “Lara Croft”. It looks good. It sounds good. And for the first time in years, I am actually excited about a Lara Croft title. There is a ton of tantalizing detailed information scattered across various articles over at Game Informer, particularly the evolution of the character article, as well as the the redesigning, and subsequent re-branding, of an icon.

Take a look at some of the screens and concept art from the upcoming game.

Categories: Lara Croft

“Massively Cumbersome Looting” or “I Hate it When a Body Sparkles”

December 30, 2010 1 comment

“…we already accept inventory mechanics in which 100 metal ingots take up as much space as a ring, bears sometimes carry swords and multiple hides but have only a 50% chance to have one leg or tooth on each corpse, gold bars are worth less than gold coins, and gold coins take up no space.”

Zubon, Looting, Kill Ten Rats

Zubon recently made a post about looting and how convoluted this mechanic is in our favorite MMOs. He touched upon limited inventory space, a thorn in my side for as long as I have played MMOs. Industry standard-setters like WoW are the worst culprits of this disease. When you kill a foe, you much walk up to its body, click it, manually transfer all items to your inventory and move on. Zubon argues, and I agree, if the experience I get goes directly into my character’s level, cash is deposited directly into my coffers, why is it that I need to manually pick up that Great Axe from the squirrel I just downed? (The absurdity of which merits another post.)

Both looting and limited inventory space are archaic and dated concepts in MMOs. Looting is nothing more than a senseless time sink, nothing good comes of it for the player, and it doesn’t serve any other purpose than the alleged psychological advantage of knowing you just teabagged the corpse. I am being facetious, but the point stands: looting is obsolete, and unless it serves some actual purpose, such as salvaging in EVE Online, I think it needs to be automated to allow players to a) get the most out of their experience and b) remove one of the most repetitive, mind-numbing aspects from contemporary MMO gaming. I bet if I put up a poll asking MMO players if they would like to physically loot bodies or just have the items dumped into their inventory, the majority would choose the later.

I know I often champion the need for immersion, but once you have looted that useless piece of junk from the 85,657th body, immersion can suck it. With the advent of new technology, mechanics and the continued metamorphosis of the MMO industry, I believe it is imperative that developers take another look at these dated concept, and remove/revamp those that force players into incessant grinds and repetitive gameplay.

Categories: Looting, Opinion

Facepalm of the Day: “Frog, Flattened” or “Real Life Frogger Goes Awry”

December 30, 2010 1 comment

Gaming has it’s fair share of bizarre happenings and crazy stories. Every once in a while you come across a really stupid tale involving parental negligence, supreme teen idiocy, or some use of duct tape that would make a grown man cringe. But this story that I came across on Kotaku today is a class in itself.

Short version: dude with buddies discusses playing Frogger in dense traffic across a South California highway; yells “go!”; runs into traffic; gets hit by a Lexus SUV; miraculously survives.

Long version.

Thank God no one ever tried a real life version of Donkey Kong. “Hey honey, why don’t you hold the video camera while I climb down into the Gorilla pen, hit him in the head with a barrel and then try to climb back out before he can get me?”

Categories: Facepalm of the Day

“‘Staches Make All the Difference” or “Handyman Turned Hero”

December 29, 2010 Leave a comment

I came across these excellent ‘stache illustrations a while back, buried them in the deepest recesses of my homicidal hard-drive (I can’t even begin to count the number of things I entrusted it with, that have now gone missing), and forgot about them. Cleaning my HD yesterday, I saw these again and I thought it was imperative that i share these with the world!

Categories: Comic

“I Once Lost a Friend” or “It Gets Better”

December 28, 2010 1 comment

This post is very personal, so if you are not interested in my personal, non-gaming-related thoughts, feel free to skip this post.

I Once Lost a Friend

In college I had a friend. Let’s call him Harry. Harry was a quiet kid, the sole child of an ultra-Christian family, shy, modest, soft-spoken and always nice. I can’t recall a single moment in the three years that I knew the kid when I saw him frown, or be mean to someone, or even be in a foul mood. I don’t mean to say he was always in a cheery, happy-go-lucky mood, he was a deeply troubled kid, but at least he never added to all the misery in the world.

Harry was raised by parents who stringently adhered to Orthodox Christian beliefs. Since an early age he attended church, learned about how Christ had bled for his sins, and was told that unsavory indulgences like adultery, pre-marital sex and homosexuality were sinful in the eyes of the one true God. Harry came to college with these beliefs and values, and tried as best as he could to follow them to the letter.

But at the end of the day, we are who we are, and at the end of the day, we have to come to terms with our deepest darkest fears and desires. Harry realized partway through sophomore year that he was gay. Girls weren’t his cup of tea, and boys always piqued his curiosity. Given his upbringing, this terrified Harry. On the surface I remember seeing a generally happy but reserved kid turn into a brooding introvert, always seemingly concerned with something, but never forthcoming about the origins of his troubles.

If you can hear any of this Harry, I am terribly sorry. I should have pushed harder, I should have been a better friend, I should have asked you what was bothering you and maybe you wouldn’t have felt so alone. I am sorry I was less of a friend and more of an acquaintance. I am sorry I was oblivious to your plight, busy with studies and girls and booze and other college indulgences, and I am sorry I wasn’t there like I should have been. I am sorry I blew it off when others asked me about what may be troubling you. I am so, so deeply sorry. I wish like anything I could go back and be there for you, but that time is gone. And I can’t take my carelessness back. I am not an idiot, I know it’s not entirely my fault. But I know we could have done something, and again, for that I am so sorry.

They say time heals all wounds. But for Harry, time only added to his burdens. A devoutly religious individual, Harry tried earnestly to ignore and subdue his homosexual tendencies, treating them as a test from God to gauge the depth of his faith. Worst of all, for the fear of being judged, or his parents finding out, Harry never discussed the true source of his troubles with anyone. Ever. Can you imagine how lonely that is? To spend years with a secret locked up inside you that you want to yell out to the world from the tallest building, yet it doesn’t even comes out as a whisper? Can you imagine how alone Harry must have felt, unable to share his troubles, fearful of persecution, ridicule or misunderstanding?

On a cold morning in late April, campus patrol found his body at the base of a building, the eighth floor of which he lived in. They tried reviving him, but he had been there a while, and he was no longer. All that was left behind was a note that shared his confusion, his inability to share his thoughts with anyone, and his shame at not being able to control his feelings.

I am sorry Harry. I should have tried harder. I am sorry you had to bear that alone, and I am sorry your life ended so much sooner than it should have.

It Gets Better, Says EA

What prompted this post is this video from EA:

It Gets Better is a campaign sweeping the U.S. in which LGBT individuals share their experiences and tell those who are still chained by societal constraints to be openly gay. It is an effort to reduce the fear of coming out, to let those who are terrified of coming out know that they are not alone, and that even if it feels like they are between a rock and a hard place with no way out, it does, in fact, get better.

What pissed me off were some of the comments made by the readers below the post on GamePro. My stance on the issue is very clear: Live and let live. if you don’t agree or understand why someone is the way (s)he is, at least have the human decency to let them go about their business unabated, free of persecution. They have the right, just as you do, to live their lives as they see fit.

Here are some of the comments made under the video:

“In regards to homosexuality being a human right: First, I would like to say that I have no problems with individuals being gay, but when it comes down to it, what part of human rights says that we should support and accept them?

A difference in color I can understand; but the scientific fact remains, homosexuals cannot breed. When we begin to dismiss homosexuals and homosexuality as “normal,” we are telling future generations that “we don’t care about the survival of our species.”

Whatever mutation took place in their chromosomal development is not the fault of the rest of the human race.”

I sincerely hope I don’t have to point out the blatant irony in the statements above. And then, there was this gem:

“Why would it matter? These are gaming companies, I don’t give a damn what they think, or what causes they are for. Just make the damn games and STFU. I don’t need to be preached to about their world view.

This is gaming, keep the bullshit out of it.”

Here is the same response inverted, ala what Quadratic1, another commenter said about another similar comment:

“Why would it matter? These are gamers, I don’t give a damn what they think, or what causes they are for. Just play the damn games and STFU. I don’t need to be preached to about their view on what EA should or shouldn’t do.

This is gaming, keep the (homophobic) bullshit out of it.”

Yup, the shoe sure fits.

I don’t mean to be preachy, but the base of all religious is the religion of humanity. Learn to be a decent human being first, accepting of others, tolerant and caring, before you use religion’s peg to discredit the beliefs and lifestyles of an entire portion of the human population.

Live and let live.

And yes, it does get better.

Categories: Bronte

“Assassin’s Creed MMO?” or “Rome Might Need Saving… From Assassins!”

December 28, 2010 1 comment

And we’re back from Christmas break. Well actually that is a lie because in my part of the world, Christmas isn’t celebrated widely, you know, being a Muslim country and all with its own culture, traditions and holidays. I have been away because I have been incredibly sick, and I am pretty sure somewhere along the coughing bouts I lost half a lung at a bus stop downtown.

I digress.

Assassin’s Creed MMO?

Ever since I finished Brotherhood, I have been contemplating what it would be like to play the game in an MMO setting? It is a living breathing world that transforms and morphs based on the choices you make (the city building element), and continues to evolve as the player progresses. The player can also call in his own Assassin recruits in battles (companions). The only thing really missing is a bunch of Assassins running around Rome trying to tackle the Borgia and the Templars. I think you would need to limit the number of players in a world to ensure Rome isn’t overrun with overly ambitious budding Assassins to the point that Rome needs saving from Assassins instead!

The point is that I think an Assassin’s Creed MMO would be a great idea. Lo and behold, two facts for your perusal:

  1. In 2008, Ubisoft’s boss Yves Guillemot said that Massive, a studio that had previously only made strategy games, was being put to work in the MMO space.
  2. On December 23rd, 2010, via a Tweet, Ubisoft revealed that Massive was working on an Assassin’s Creed project. Hallelujah?

In all likelihood it isn’t an MMO, probably some Facebook tie-in to the third (fourth?) upcoming game in the long-running, critically-acclaimed series.

But one can hope right?

“Fallout Online Debacle Takes a Turn for the Ridiculous” or “Post Apocalypse Postponed”

December 24, 2010 3 comments

It seems that we will never get to see Fallout: Online. Allow me to give you a crash course.

Fallout: A Crash Course (yeah I know I just said it)

Interplay created the original Fallout back in 1997, an RPG that, even now in 2010, is ranked by multiple gaming authorities as one of the best games ever created (PC Gamer’s 7th best game of all time, 2010). This was followed by Fallout 2 just a year later. Then Black Isle (the developer) and Interplay (the publisher) went dark on the franchise. During this time, Fallout 3 was being developed under the working title Van Buren. Interplay went bankrupt, and Black Isle, mid-production, was shut down. The license to develop the third game in the franchise was then transferred to Bethesda Softworks (the Elder Scrolls folks). Bethesda then completely scrapped Van Buren. They developed (and consequently released) Fallout 3 in 2009, and we all played and loved (hated) it.

The Rights for the Fallout MMO

Backtrack. In 2006, Interplay filed form 8-K with the SEC seeking to start development of a Fallout MMO. In April 2007, SEC filings show that the IP was transferred from Bethesda to Interplay for the development of the MMO under the following conditions:

  • Development must start within two years of the agreement date, April 4, 2007 (production allegedly started with Masthead Studios in April, 2008)
  • Interplay must also secure at least $30 million for the development of the project in said two years, or forfeit the license
  • The game must be launched within four years of beginning of development (that would sometime in April 2012; however Interplay President Eric Caen has already said it won’t be before late 2012 – uh oh!)
  • Once launched, Interplay must pay Bethesda a cool 12% of the sales and subscription fees

The Legal Wars

The lawsuit began in September 2009, with Bethesda suing Interplay over breach of contract, saying the development had not yet started. (As stated above, the agreement required Interplay to start development by April 3, 2009 – two years after the contract was signed. Interplay claimed it was already started in April 2008, a year earlier).

Interplay counter-sued, saying that interrupting is against their original contract (the one where Interplay sold the IP to Bethesda in the first place) and thus, that sale is void.

In December 2009, a U.S. District Judge rules against Bethesda’s injunction, allowing the development for the MMO to continue unabated, and most people breathed a sigh of relief.

In April 2010, Bethesda finally dropped the injunction appeal (demanding the MMO’s production be halted), but continued with the lawsuit. Interplay also remained adamant of its stance that the original sale had been violated.

The Latest Ridiculous Twist

If you have made it this far, you already know the situation is fucked to begin with. But today’s twist really puts the icing on the cake.

Bethesda now claims that the agreement they originally made with Interplay back in 2007 (as detailed above), only allowed interplay to use the word “Fallout”, and nothing else. Nothing else that has been already established in the fallout universe through the various games can be used in the MMO. There is ridiculous. Then there is bullshit. Then about 50 feet of pure crap. Then this latest twist.

That’s like Epic Games selling the Gears of Wars IP and then claiming, “you can use the Gears of War name, but you cannot use any of the characters, settings, story elements, the planet Sera, the Locust, chainsaw bayonets, macho tough guys or testosterone. Thank you, and have a nice day!”

Categories: Fallout Online

“Overlooked Titles of 2010″ or “Recommendations Please!”

December 23, 2010 1 comment

I recently came across this article on 1UP regarding some of the most overlooked games of 2010. Sure we have all played (and reveled in the supreme glory of Red Dead Redemption, and Cataclysm, and Call of Duty: Black Ops, and Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood and all the other blockbuster titles that came out this year. But what of the sleeper hits? Games that was undeniably well-conceived, developed and executed, but just couldn’t generate the hype or get enough of a favorable rating?

One such game that I have been championing for some time has been Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, and sure as day, that title was part of the list that 1UP compiled. Some of the other titles on the list that I am aware of but never bothered to check were:

  • Deadly Premonition
  • Darksiders
  • Hoard
  • Cave Story
  • Alpha Protocol

I am wondering if any of you guys have played these games, what you have to say about them, and if you think they are worthy investment’s of my time.

Categories: Enslaved

“We’ve Changed Everything…” or “…But Don’t Worry, It’s Still The Same Thing”

December 22, 2010 4 comments

“Dragon Age 2 looks better, plays better, and has an entirely new story,” says lead designer Mike Laidlaw… And so just about everything has been changed in some way, whether it’s a minor tweak to smooth out some rough edges, or the total reworking of an idea that never quite came together the way it should. But don’t worry, says Laidlaw. It may not look quite the same, but at it’s heart, “It’s still Dragon Age.”

Susan Arendt, Preview: What’s New in Dragon Age II, WarCry

Gotta love the marketing lingo!

Some other points to take away from the preview, new information (at least for me) is marked in red:

  • Gone is the origins concept. You are new (a male or female version of) Hawke, Dragon Age’s answer to Commander Sheppard. Also, your character now talks.
  • The Blight is peripheral noise, compared to the clamor of Hawke’s rise to power, myth and legend.
  • Combat is getting a massive overhaul, particularly in terms of differentiating the classes and smoothing out the difficulty levels. It is also considerably more frantic, a departure from the long-windups of the original.
  • Crafting has been streamlines; you won’t have to hunt down ingredient-specific vendors; once you find the item in the world; all vendors will carry it. (Thank god!)
  • Skill Trees are now more circular in nature, as opposed to the horizontal and linear hierarchy, allowing multiple paths to get to that skill you’ve been craving.
  • The game has a lot more eye-candy than the three primary colors of the original: Brown, Grey and Blood-Spatter.
  • You will no longer be forced to “keep everyone happy” to keep them around; your party will get your back no matter what, but they will frequently disagree with you if you come from different standpoints
  • Junk loot is actually labeled “junk”, so you can sell it without a second thought.

Am I excited? You betcha. Dragon Age: Origins was a stellar game, its flaws notwithstanding. But I am going to wait on some reviews before buying this one.

Categories: Dragon Age 2, Preview

“Why I Love Pete” or “Getting the WoW Faithful in a Tizzy”

December 21, 2010 Leave a comment

“But y’know, I haven’t gotten the WoW Faithful all in a tizzy by saying something bad about their beloved game, so I figured I’d shoot out a post anyway.

The Worgen quest line has possibly been even more hand-holdy than the Night Elf quest line is! There are some quests that literally task you to click on a vehicle. Once you do, your character jumps in, goes on a canned ride where you have no control, then jumps out in front of a quest NPC that you have to click on to finish the quest. SUCCESS! You’re an awesome wolfie, you pulled it off! It’s like an MMO for pre-schoolers.”

Pete, WoW update; time to rile up the natives, Dragonchasers

“What MMOs Can Learn From Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood” or “The Themepark vs. Sandbox Debate Continues”

December 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Part of an ongoing series; previous entries:

An Iterative Process of Improvement

I recently finished Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. I have played every major game in the series and each successive iteration continues to build upon the strengths of the one prior, while (attempting to) eliminate the flaws. As I mentioned before in the mini-review, the biggest improvement is the combat. The first two games required you to passively sit there, waiting for your opponent to strike and then time a counter to kill him instead, and over the course of time that became very frustrating. I especially hated the penultimate battles of Assassin’s Creed II. It took forever to wipe out a group of guards because all you had to go on was counter-kills. Brotherhood changed that up by introducing execution streaks, where once you got a kill, either by counter-killing or aggressively chain-attacking, you could chain that into a series of potentially endless moves that would offensively dispatch your foes around you. There is nothing more satisfying than taking out seven or eight guards in a row without any of them having stood of chance of so much as attacking you, let alone harming you.

I am beginning to go off-topic. My point is that each game was better than it’s predecessor, and Brotherhood was no exception. I was very pleasantly surprised by the improvements and thoroughly enjoyed the game, especially considering this latest installments was designed with a completion obsessive compulsive player in mind. It’s like Christmas came early!

Optional Quest Objectives

One of the cool new things brotherhood introduced was the choice of completing the mission in a very linear manner, the way the game intends, or using your own ingenuity to tackle the problem. If you follow what the game wants you to do exactly, which, at times, can be quite difficult, you get 100% synchronization with the Animus. if you don’t follow the optional objective and play it out the way you felt like it, you got only 50% synchronization.

A few days prior, I made a post in which I gave an example of having variable quest objectives to make the world feel more natural. In short, what if the NPC you interacted with asked you to kill as many mobs as you could to help the town against <insert antagonist faction> invasion. You can kill one, or two, or five or twenty, and you are given quest rewards, experience and currency based on how many mobs you killed. A commenter pointed out that grinding the mobs will likely be the most desirable solution, so most players will gravitate towards the option with the most rewards, and as such quest designer wouldn’t consider such a system. The feasibility of this idea merits another conversation, suffice it to say that quest structure in MMOs (in my humble opinion) needs an overhaul. We have the technology (such as phasing), we have the hardware, and we have the colossal development teams. Yet no one has been able to crack the formula of putting every last player through precisely the same content with little variation.

One thing that Brotherhood does, and does quite well, is the concept of optional 100% synchronization. You are sent on an assassination mission. You can kill your target in a wide variety of ways. You can attack him with brute force, tearing down everything around you to get to him. You can use a ranged weapon. You can methodically wipe out all the guards in the area, till there is no one left but him. You have the freedom of choice. But if you want the “additional reward” of 100% synchronization, you must kill him while blended into the crowd, sitting on a bench, and you must assassinate the target without being detected.

The 50% synchronization scenario is much easier to execute and requires little thinking on the player’s part, but it doesn’t reward you as well. The 100% synchronization takes  planning, time and solid execution, but rewards you much better.

I think this is something MMOs can learn from Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Give players the option of completing the quest objectives any way they see fit (the sandbox paradigm), or in the exact manner you intend, which would be tougher and most time-costly (the theme-park paradigm). Purists will of course argue that this inevitably favors the theme-park side of things. But let us not forget that the theme-park oriented solution requires additional planning, time and coordination. I personally feel that this will give more flexibility to the game, in terms of giving players, who already feel that their entire experience is too on-rails, the freedom of choice for solving their quest objectives. The only people who will be forced to follow the 100% synchronization, there-park oriented path will be obsessive compulsive completionists like me, and I am quite OK with that!

Thoughts on the idea?

P.S.

Bonus discussion question: What if the rewards could vary, not necessarily get better or worse, with how you complete the quest objectives?

“A Typical Blizzard Job Interview” or “Making WoW Ain’t Enough?”

December 20, 2010 3 comments

“It’s our next gen MMO and we’ve only started talking about it in a limited fashion because we want to leverage the fact that we’re working on something like that for the purpose of recruiting –— getting some of the best talent in the industry on that.”

World of Warcraft executive producer Frank Pearce to Destructoid.

Uh what? How does a typical interview go over at Blizzard?

“You wanna come work for us?”

“What’s so special about you guys?”

“Uh, we made Wow?”

“Whatever!”

“Jeez, tough crowd. We also made a little game Starcraft, and its sequel!”

“Booooorrrrring!”

“What are you crazy? How about Diablo? We made all three. And their expansions!”

“So listen, I got somewhere I need to be…”

“We’re making a new MMO codenamed Titan!”

“Oh! Em! Gee! Pretty please hire me!!”

Categories: Bronte

“Good News of The Day” or “Star Wars: The New Quests”

December 15, 2010 2 comments

After recent talk of Star Wars: The Old Republic being the biggest MMO failure, comment courtesy of a Bioware Mythic employee, it was a relieve to read Brianna’s hands-on experience with Star Wars: the Old Republic. The report is full of interesting tidbits and gameplay information. But there was one particular paragraph that stood out for me regarding the quest structure.

One particular quest really impressed me because I was able to change my decision midway through. A pair of Jedi Masters tasked me with determining whether or not their apprentices were involved in an illicit affair. When I confronted the Padawans, I decided to allow them to bribe me to keep my mouth shut about their romance. (I broke character, but I wanted to see what would happen.) The Masters didn’t seem to believe me, but they took me at my word. Later when I returned to collect my bribe (a rare lightsaber crystal), I got the option to refuse to accept it, which earned me the loving couple’s loyalty. I wish I’d had time to finish the area, because I’d love to see how that turns out (and whether I’d have gotten to use that crystal in my saber). Something tells me it doesn’t end happily, except for me as a player. Can you imagine how a quest like that would go in any other game? Click click click auto-complete click next quest. But in SWTOR, I was riveted.

Brianna Royce, Hands-on with SWTOR’s Jedi Knight on Tython, Massively.com

Given my own posts as of late, whew?

“Read My Mind” or “Gosh You’re Perceptive Anjin!”

December 14, 2010 2 comments

“If you are not a WoW player, the sudden flood of Cataclysm posts must be overwhelming. Many blogs that cover a wide range of topics are suddenly dominated by this one game. And if you don’t care about WoW, your interaction with the community will be dropping considerably.”

Anjin, Random Shots: You Are Not Required To Play WoW, Bullet Points

“The Race to Level-Cap” or “Skipping the Best to Get to the Rest”

December 13, 2010 8 comments

Why do we rush through new content if we are always so starved for it?

An interesting dichotomy exists in MMOs, especially those that are subscription-based. Players, generally speaking, get very antsy when new content isn’t available and they are farming the same old (conquered) content for months. The clamor for more content reaches deafening proportions, with the truly hardcore claiming their monthly subscriptions deserve additional content. Then the developer creates the new content, populates the world with thousands of new NPCs, mobs, quests, encounters and events, and releases it.

A week later, the top players have killed the toughest boss in the game, effectively wrapping up all endgame PvE content for the time being. Sure you could argue that:

  • It is only the 10-man Nefarian kill, the 25-man remains to be killed: OK first, Blizzard said 10-man and 25-man and are alike in difficulty, so nah nah na-na-naaaah! Second, let us also not forget that the toughest encounter during the initial days of WotLK was the 10-man Sartharion. And third, the 25-man version was bugged out, and even if it wasn’t, how long before that bastard is killed as well?
  • There is a ton of new content for starting players and those who want to re-roll: Sure, but we are talking about the players who were anxious for new content. This effectively implies they were already playing. And second, because they were already playing the game, re-rolling was clearly a option they had considered and either exhausted or ignored. The new races might cause a few players to test out the new starting zones, but by-and-large, the player who cried for new content is looking for content at and/or above his level.
  • There is Archeology: Yup, and if you would take Tobold’s word for it, it is also quite entertaining. But how long will Archeology keep you happy, or leveling new professions, or freaking fishing?

The point is that there may be a ton of new features in the new expansion, but the feature we are most interested in, new storyline content, we zip through at breakneck speed.

I looked around in the blogosphere, and at the time of writing this post (Saturday):

The list can go on and on. Did I mention it hasn’t been a full week since Cataclysm hit? I am not saying I am any different, hell I’d probably be in my first raid instance by this time. But the fact of the matter remains: MMO expansions are one of the few things in life where the destination matters a lot more than the journey. Perhaps we are genetically coded to get to the finish line ahead of the competition, and much like a 100-meter dash, completely ignore the periphery, the surroundings and the length of track that you sprinted on to get to the end.

I just find it baffling that guilds like Exorsus and Paragon have already cleared all endgame content, and will not be trapped in an endless cycle of repitition till the next content patch. Where is the fun in that? Again, I am not saying I am above all that. No, not at all. I am very much a part of this MMO community, and possess the same mindset for getting there first, beating the competition, but at least I am increasingly aware of how much I am missing on the way.

I’m quite certain that realm first achievements don’t particularly help either.

Thought of the Day: “Variable Quest Rewards” or “Choose Your Own MMO Adventure”

December 12, 2010 5 comments

What if an NPC handed you the following quest text:

They Sent Assassins

Objective: Kill as many Goblin Assassins as you can.

Description

Have you ever seen a goblin, Bronte? They’re wretched little green-skinned monsters that love only two things: gold and themselves.

The Blackrock orcs have enlisted the aid of goblin assassins to kill our soldiers. If you look to the field in the north you can barely make out their silhouettes, sneaking about in the grass.

I need you to head out there and kill every goblin that you see. They need to learn that nobody messes with the Alliance!

Rewards:

  • 1 Goblin – 10 XP, 15 Copper
  • Between 1-5 Goblins – 30 XP, 45 Copper
  • Between 6-10 Goblins 60 XP, 1 Silver, 10 Copper
  • More than 15 Goblins 100 XP, 1 Silver 65 Copper
Categories: Bronte

“Assassin’s Creed: Awesome” or “Offensive Combat, Deadly Assassins, Same Old Stupid Voice Acting”

December 11, 2010 2 comments

Completionist’s Wetdream

My gaming time these days is being occupied by the excellent Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. It is a completionist’s wet dream. There are flags, feathers, treasures, guild missions, assassinations, blacksmiths/tailors/doctors with their own shop quests, banks, underground tunnels, platforming dungeons, mini-games, clusters, puzzles, war machines, courtesan missions, thief missions… the list goes on and on. Oh and did I mention it also has a kick-ass main storyline? But it is so seamlessly integrated into the fray of everything else that you never know where the generally well-defined outlines of the story end, and the side quests and mini-games begin.

Chained Executions

The combat is drastically improved. The drawback for the first two games was being forced to stand there, perpetually blocking (fingers going numb from endlessly holding that stupid button), waiting for someone to attack you so you could counter-kill them with a cool finishing move. Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood turns this formula on it’s head, and now allows you to engage in combat offensively. I bruteforce kill my first victim, and then chain an execution streak to take out a ridiculous number of guards. In one mission (when the French assault Bartolomew’s home), my execution streak was 78 kills without blocking, disengaging, or running away. This is, without a doubt, one of the two best new features for the series.

Confraternita di Assassini

The second of these two best new features is your trained band of assassins. In any given fight, I can call up to six highly trained assassins who have more health, skill and equipment than the toughest brutes in the game. And they kill with the same efficiency as you do (assuming you don’t suck!). In fact, I have picked up a few things from my own computer-controlled assassins, such as the liberal use of smoke bombs. There is nothing more satisfying than calling them into a group of guards and seeing four of them air assassinate a group and engage in the chaos around you. You can send them on missions even after they reach level 10 (Assassino!), and earn money and unique items that can be sold at shops, or used to complete shop quests to unlock more items.

It is a kick-ass game, one that I have had an incredible amount of fun with. Rome isn’t as conducive to parkour as prior locations in the series, but it continues to be a fun, engaging and at times exhilarating component of the game.

BTW: I have yet to touch the multiplayer component, and I would recommend it highly for the single player portion alone. Buy it. Play it. Tell me all about it.

My only grievance, the terrible “Italian” accents. Ayo it’s a stupid!

I leave you with the game’s literal trailer, courtesy of one Tobuscus, one of the funniest people on YouTube right now.

“A Sudden Drop in MMOs” or “Scratching the Itch”

December 11, 2010 2 comments

A Sudden Drop in MMOs

I am no longer playing WoW, and quite at peace with the decision. It is a great game, and I am more than certain that the latest expansion is the best one yet, if the commentary of my peers is any indication. But for now, I’m done, and it’s time to try out something new.

Actively, I am not playing any MMO at the moment. Unless you think infrequently logging into Perpetuum and World of Tanks is actively playing MMOs. I am just waiting for all the madness around Christmas time to be over before I jump into the fray with a new title (poll on that soon). There are plenty of choices, just not enough time to invest in an MMO full-time right now.

Bronte, Hardcore

I have also come to realize that casual MMO gaming is not for me. The first few years I played WoW, I played as the GM of a very large guild and we conquered a lot of content. Then I graduated, got a job, got engaged, and life got exponentially more complicated. That necessitated the investment of a lot of time, and as such, my hardcore MMO habits suffered. But life is beginning to settle down again, my work hours have decreased from 12-14 a day to about 10. I am not overworked or being abused, I assure you, I genuinely love doing what I do, and I would gladly invest more time if needed. But that’s the point, it is no longer needed, I have more time in my hands and more still in the coming months.

So I need to find a way to scratch that itch, that need to play in a competitive environment, that exhilaration of downing the first world boss, the excitement of trial and error as you learn a new fight, the clang of axe on sword (or appropriate equivalent) in a battleground, the rush of an accomplishment that stands out in the world. To that end, I need to find a new title to look into. Syp’s post a few weeks back got me interested in Rift. Then Darren linked to a post on Rift’s beta, MMO Gamer Chick got invited to the beta, a certain someone else skipped it altogether, and it certainly piqued Syncaine’s curiosity. Of course Champions Online is going F2P. I have always wanted to try out Lord of the Rings, and apparently good ol’ Dub’s thinking the same thing. And then we have the upcoming The Secret World, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Jumpgate Evolution, Guild Wars 2 and Black Prophecy, although, admittedly, I have no idea when they may be released. There is also the option of going back to EvE, especially with Massively’s new Mob.

These are options I will whittle down over the next few weeks as I do more research on which MMO seems to best fit my play-style and nature, but one thing is for certain: I think I really want to run a hyper-competitive guild again. It is an incredible amount of work and a thankless job, but it is also a lot of fun, immeasurably rewarding in an unsung manner, and comes with its own set of perks and fringe benefits.

Categories: Bronte, Guild

“What Feed Reader Do You Use?” or “Google, Flexible, Intuitive, Limited”

December 11, 2010 Leave a comment

I have been using Google Reader for a while now. But as my reading list grows, I find that it is difficult to manage it with in Google Reader.

What feed readers do you guys use? And which would you recommend? I would especially like one that allows me to read feeds “offline”, and download them for offline viewing as soon as it refreshes.

Categories: Bronte
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