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Archive for August, 2011

“Transmorgificate my Fist in Your Face” or “Too Little Too Late”

August 29, 2011 6 comments

The Tier 2 paladin set was probably the best looking set Blizzard managed to come up with for the paladin class.

The tier took some effort to obtain, especially considering that all the pieces were given out in two separate content patches. The helm dropped from Onyxia and the legs from Ragnaros. But you had to wait until the release of Blackwing Lair to get the remaining six pieces. The set looked awesome, and at the time could only be worn by Humans and Dwarfs. No the Draenei’s stupid spaceship hadn’t crashed yet, and the Horde did not have Paladins (as the Alliance did not have Shamans – I know new players, I know that sounds frightening).

I had all eight pieces of the armor, and with each raiding tier, we hoped that we would get a set that would be as badass-looking as Tier 2, but to no avail. We got sets that made us look like a cross between Gundam and a retarded Transformer, but never anything that was as impressive as Tier 2. The Burning Crusade brought with it some hope and a purple (ugh!) version of the same set, but that was quickly replaced by high-end raiders such as myself.

For five years the Tier 2 set collected dust in my bank. I would take it out infrequently when we had a retro-vanilla-WoW party in Ironforge, but other than that it just remained in my bank, unwanted, useless, sad.

Two months prior to quitting WoW in May, I deleted the set to make space for a lot of other items I was stock-piling. Two months after I quit, Transmorgification was announced.

You can understand if I want to high-five Blizzard in the face with a frying pan right about now.

“Eid Mubarak” or “What the Hell is Eid?” or “Some Quick Statistics”

August 29, 2011 1 comment

Off-topic post alert! But with so many hits on my blog looking for “Eid Mubarak”, I thought it might be prudent to explain what the hell Eid really is.

Population

There are over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. The following maps depicts what may be called “Muslim countries”. There are over 2.5 million Muslims in the U.S. alone.

The Islamic Calendar

The Islamic calender is lunar, and strictly follows the revolutions of the moon around the earth, which is why it is about 355 days (10 days shorter than your normal calender). There are twelve months as follows:

  1. Muharram
  2. Safar
  3. Rabi-ul-Awwal
  4. Tabi-ul-Akhir
  5. Jumada al-Ula
  6. Jumada al-Akhira
  7. Rajab
  8. Shabaan
  9. Ramadan (First Eid)
  10. Shawwal
  11. Dhu al-Qa’da
  12. Dhu al-Hijja (Second Eid)

What is Eid?

First Eid or Eid-ul-Fitr

Every year they celebrate this little event called Eid. Which comes twice. About 10 weeks apart. Allow me to elaborate.

The 9th month in the year is Ramadan. This is the month of fasting. Muslims around the world fast from sunrise to sunset. Fasting implies no food, drink, sex, nothing. You have to abstain. So forgive any Muslim friends you may have that may be on some serious edge this month. To answer the obvious question, yes you can have sex after you break your fast at sunset!

At the end of Ramadan comes the first Eid, also known as Eid-ul-Fitr. It is a festival of food, lights, and flashy clothes. And sweets. Lots and lots of sweets. As in Halloween is put to shame. Essentially Muslims try to make up for all the abstinence for a month in the three days of Eid, and indulge themselves to the fullest extent of the imagination.

Second Eid or Eid-ul-Adha

In the 12th month, Dhu al-Hijja, Muslims around the world travel to the holy city of Mecca to offer pilgrimage to Ka’ba. On the 10th day of this month, you are supposed to commemorate Abraham sacrificing his son at God’s command by sacrificing an animal and making three portions out of the meat. The first portion is for your family, the second for your relatives and loved ones and the third is for the needy and the destitute. This is effectively the second Eid, or Eid-ul-Adha, and it involves an equivalent (if not an added) amount of indulgence, gluttony and debauchery.

So there you have it. That is what Eid is! The first Eid this year will be on Wednesday, August 31st, 2011. So if you have a Muslim friend, wish them a happy Eid or “Eid Mubarak” and impress them with your new-found knowledge!

So, Eid Mubarak everyone!

Categories: Bronte, Off-topic

“The MMO Gold Rush is Dead” or “But the F2P Rush is Just Beginning”

August 28, 2011 2 comments

About a week ago, Tobold spoke about how he feels that the MMO gold rush is over. In the wake of the phenomenal and unprecedented success of World of Warcraft, several MMO developers popped up all over the map, and the market was flooded with clones, underfunded or badly designed (original) ideas, or incomplete products as studios rushed to capitalize on the MMO gold rush. Tobold goes on to argue that the F2P model actually forces developers to make better games because otherwise the player will not move past the free content.

While I am not entirely in agreement with the last statement, for we have seen several games that purposely restrict content and box it into “paid content”. These models, which limit what the players can experience in the start, at least for players like me, have no appeal. Free-to-play to me implies that I should be able to experience the game in its entirety at the start. I should not be subjected to archetypes that I am not interested in, or a class that I have no interest in playing. Sure give me the content in paid categories higher up in the levels, with more areas opening as I opt to pay for them, but if you show me limited content in the very beginning, I will likely leave in the very beginning. This is probably the reason I cannot move past the first few levels in Champions Online: Free for All. Because the only archetype that I thought I would enjoy, I am having next to no fun with.

That being said, I think the F2P gold rush is just beginning. With the resounding success of several games that switched from a subscription model to F2P (hello LOTRO), more and more studios are producing AAA titles that are free-to-play with cash shops. Just today, one of the most hotly anticipated new MMOs and one of my favorites, The Secret World revealed its payment plan. There will be a subscription (which I will pay gladly), but along with it, the game will feature a cash shop for “clothing and convenience items” to avoid the pay-to-win slippery slope so many other studios have been accused of. I thought this was interesting. They are not F2P at launch, but depending on the success of the subscription-based model they have a cash shop all set and ready to roll at launch. Shrewd Mr. Tornquist, very shrewd.

The bottomline is that the MMO genre is in a constant state of evolution. Old, anachronistic and archaic concepts are beginning to bore the pants off of veteran players. WoW, despite constant innovation, an accelerated timetable for endgame content and now with more Vitamin C, continues to lose subscriptions. Now granted they still have over 11 million active subscribers, but the dip is noticeable, tangible and quite possibly a herald for the coming times. F2P is the latest gold rush in the MMO-sphere, and it is here to stay a while, because it allows developers to milk more doubloons out of their players with with every single content update, cosmetic or otherwise. I don’t expect this gold rush to change any time soon.

Categories: F2P, The Secret World

Thought of the Day: “Atrocious Acronyms” or “Someone Help Me With This”

August 27, 2011 4 comments

We can write F2P every time we need to talk about free-to-play titles. But we need to write “subscription-based-model” for whenever we need to talk about, well, subscription based games (see what I mean?)

Someone come up with an acronym for subscription-based! Here are a few suggestions:

SBM – Subscription-Based Model?

SBG – Subscription-Based Game?

!F2P – Not Free-to-Play?

Categories: Bronte

“An Hour to The Secret World’s Beta Information” or “I Better Get in This Beta!”

August 26, 2011 6 comments

Update (an hour later): Of course it is a little annoying when the timer runs out to 000:00:00… and nothing changes on the website and no new information pops up. Damn you Funcom! Damn you Ragnar!

Second Update: The developers update us with this tweet:

The Council of Venice has intervened and are delaying the start of the first phase of the Secret War by four hours. Stay tuned.

Funcom – The Secret World Twitter Account

Categories: The Secret World

Game Design: “Newton’s Third Law of MMOs” or “I love playing MMOS, I Just Hate What I Have Available to Play Right Now”

August 24, 2011 8 comments

Spinks has a great post up on what makes choice fun in video games. Spinks postulates that choices that have unclear outcomes, no outcomes or unwanted outcomes are not fun. I completely agree, but I think this is because of the inseparable nature of choice and impact.

Newton’s Third Law of MMOs

Following Newton’s third law of motion, every action has an equal or opposite reaction. The world would rip apart at the seams if this rule was violated, for it forms the most fundamental of the natural laws. When translated into the game world, every choice should have an equal impact. Whenever this impact is unwanted, unclear or non-existent, the game world starts to lose its coherence and relevance for us.

I believe that choice and impact are conjoined twins, inseparable from birth, and forever married.  Choice and impact are interlinked inseparably. Every choice should have a measurable impact. No impact, or a not favorable impact makes the game less fun. When you choose to fire that spell, the immediate impact should be the monster being set on fire. When you choose to mount up, the impact should be faster movement speed. But these are examples of choices and their impact at the most basic level. This concept is then extrapolated throughout the game at the middle and macro-level.

Perhaps the clearest recent example of a choice creating a massive dent of an impact in the game world is the binary choice you have to make in the first Chapter 1 of The Witcher 2. Each of the two choices have completely divergent paths, with different quest hubs, locations, NPCs, missions and monsters. You would have to play the game twice to fully take in the whole world, because if you don’t go back to the choice after finishing the game once, you have effectively only played half the game. I honestly believe this is what made The Witcher 2 a lot more fun. The choices you made had an immediate and powerful impact on the game world, and the world reacted, and acted, differently to you based on your past actions.

This is not to say The Witcher 2 was without flaws, or it didn’t have choices that actually went against this principle. For all of it’s wonder, The Witcher 2 suffered from unclear choices. A dialogue option that seemed perfectly harmless and in tune with a desired outcome would actually result in a completely unwanted outcome. The impact of the choice, therefore, would be unwanted, rendering the choice, and by larger extension, the game, not a lot of fun for players.

But perhaps nothing is as irritating as no impact for your choices. Mass Effect 2 stands out as a classic example of this. Some here may disagree, but aside from different animations playing out different versions of the event the Renegade/Paragon system had next to no lasting impact on the main narrative. Pressing the right mouse button may send that NPC hurtling through the window, or pressing the left button may spare his life, but in the larger context of things, it meant nothing. One could argue that the impact is immediate, i.e. the fate of the NPC, but the choice should have more of an effect than a simple binary output matched exactly with your binary input.

I love playing MMOS, I Just Hate What I Have Available to Play Right Now

See ya next week!

Extrapolating from this admittedly weak example, MMOs are especially guilt of this phenomenon, where the choices you make have next to no impact on the game world. If you accept a quest to kill ten rats and save the town granary from being overrun, the the quest will subsequently be offered to a hundred others after you, as it has been given to a hundred before you, and even yourself, should you choose to undertake the same mission as an alt. The impact in this case is masked via the amount of gold, items or experience given. But given that the central premise of the game is of you being a hero, it sucks that your choice for helping that granary hero has had absolutely zero impact on the game world. Similarly, after acquiring the best gear in game, and teaming up with 39 of your best friends, you have taken on the might of Ragnaros and his minions. Yet the very next week, he is back in his lair, complete with the lowest form of trash mobs, and as one of the guardians of said world, you have effectively had no impact on the game world. I understand that the farming mechanism has become a steeple of MMO progression and longevity, but that does not absolve MMOs from violating this choice-impact mechanic.

This may be part of the reason Cataclysm was so well received, and why the phasing mechanism was lauded. After six years of the same rats being killed over and over again, and the same bosses being farmed, the world has finally moved on, and although the impact on the world was both through player actions (the end of the Lich King) and external factors (Horde invading Northshire), the impact of the choices you had made in the last six years had a visible and tangible manifestation in the game world. Of course this change was only reflected in the vanilla zones and The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King content was left untouched. But that is a topic for another argument.

All of this boils down to my recent detachment from the MMOs that I cherished and played for so long, because the choices I made had only personal rewards and the larger impact remained to be seen. At the moment, none of the MMO’s installed on my machine pique my curiosity. When playing them, regardless of the choice I make, the game isn’t fun, because I simply don’t care about the impact. Because the fact of the fact of the matter is, I love playing MMOS, I just hate what I have available to play right now.

Quote of the Day: “The Lack of an Entertaining MMO” or “Syncaine Hits the Spot”

August 23, 2011 4 comments

The lack of an entertaining MMO drives people to odd behavior.

– SynCaine, Commenting on Wilhelm’s post, The Sims social pegs my dating life

Categories: Quote of the Day

“Lambasting the SW:TOR Launch Strategy” or “Losing to the Hype”

August 22, 2011 13 comments

Syp’s rundown earlier of the inevitable juxtapositions between the two MMOs prompted this post, as well as a GameInformer story from a few days ago about how EA plans on limiting the number of copies at launch to save on server load.

Let is first start with the GameInformer story from the 18th of August, reported from GamesCom: “…EA revealed that they will be purposely limiting the number of copies available at launch, both for retail and digital.” lolwut? This makes little to no sense to me. When World of Warcraft launched, I remember going to Pyramid Mall in the town of Ithaca, upstate New York on launch day to pick up a copy from BestBuy. The store was sold out, so I left dejected, thinking I will revert to City of Heroes until I can score a copy. Before I took the bus back up to campus, I realized that there was a Target in the same mall, and I decided to go check it out. Lo and behold, some 20 odd copies of WoW were still sitting, completely untouched, on the store shelves. I bought a copy, went home, installed, updated, and loaded into the world as a Tauren Hunter named Xanthus.

Launch day was hell for WoW. The problem wasn’t server crashes (at least not in my case). The problem were the server queues and the fact that newbie starter areas were so overwhelmed with new players that it would take 10 times the amount of time to complete a normal kill quest, even in a full five-man-party. Blizzard responded astutely and rapidly by deploying and doubling the servers in record time, and within the first few days, the situation normalized.

The problem I have with this setup from EA is the same thing that happened to the starting areas in WoW. I fear that at launch, with copies limited and rabid fans clambering over one another to get into the severs (to reserve names, if nothing else), will result in a fairly terrible launch day experience for the players. The smarter thing would be to a) not limit copies, and appropriately respond with servers ready to be deployed at the last minute if the incoming horde clogs all of the intergalactic internet tubes, and b) limit the number of players that an log into a server to the optimal server load. Limiting copies at the start seems like a poor business and strategic decision. Oddly enough, the developers believe that limiting copies will actually ensure the best launch experience. It makes some sense I suppose, but the larger strategy still seems suspect.

Syp says, “I can’t imagine the fever pitch that it’s going to reach by the end of the year”. End of the year? Try now! It would be a challenge to spend an hour in my reader without some blog, news website or hype machine blowing up with the latest and greatest from the BioWare camp regarding Star Wars: The Old Republic. I didn’t think I would invest in it. I didn’t think cared enough to because early adoption sucks 9 times out of 10, and it turns out to be a lot better if you go in a few months down the line when things are more streamlined and the major bugs have been squashed. But maybe I am not strong enough. Maybe I am just not strong enough…

Image of the Day: “Real World MineCraft” or “This Photo Took Some Effort”

August 20, 2011 1 comment

I have no words. Except for these words. In retrospect, I have a few words!

Categories: MineCraft

Thought of the Day: “Bronte’s Hypocricy” or “Bronte’s Oddity”

August 19, 2011 4 comments

Psychochild’s post made me think about an interesting quirk in my video-gaming habits.

I am incredibly forgiving of the lack of immersion (or at least a clear attempt to create the illusion thereof) in single-player games.

But I am viciously opposed, and very disappointed when any immersion-breaking elements pop-up in MMOs.

I don’t know if that makes me a hypocrite, or just plain weird. But I do wonder if other MMO players, particularly those that are vocal about their experiences, feel the same way or completely disagree.

Categories: Bronte, Immersion

“The Secret World ‘s Latest Cinematic Trailer Brings People Together” or “Dragon, Illuminati, Templar: Unite”

August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

The three protagonists from the first three trailers can be clearly seen in this latest video (the Asian katana chick, the shotgun-totting demon-hunter, and the trench-coat-wearing pisser dude), first battling each other, then the forces of evil in a united effort.

But who the hell is the black dude?

Categories: The Secret World

“Boisterous Borderlands 2 Baddassery” or “All The Juicy Details in One Convenient Location!”

August 11, 2011 1 comment

Note: All images are courtesy of Game Informer!

Borderlands 2 has been announced. Earlier today I posted 15 screengrabs of the massive reveal article from Game Informer that shows all the juicy details from the sequel. I took the liberty of compiling a list of the most salient features. Enjoy!

BORDERLANDS 2: THE STORY

  • It’s been five years since the original events of Borderlands.
  • A new megalomaniac leader has emerged from the rubble of the chaos that ensued when Lilith, Mordecai, Roland and Brick wrecked havoc across Pandora: Handsome Jack. Jack runs the Hyperion corporation and their industrial revolution has left a wasteland in its wake across the surface of Pandora.
  • Handsome Jack has colonized the moon, you can even see a giant H (for Hyperion) emblazoned across its surface. That asshole. Jack’s moon base will rain down enemies and supply crates from orbit directly onto Pandora, creating dynamic combat situations for players.
  • The mysterious Guardian Angel is back, this time tasking players with taking out Handsome Jack and saving Pandora.
  • Pandora is once again threatened by a wide array of enemies, both human and alien in origin.
  • The four original protagonists are still in the game, although as NPCs, not playable characters. In fact, one of your first tasks will be to track down the original cast.
  • There will be a huge focus on both story and character backgrounds/development. Design Director Paul Hellquist feels the story was a little lackluster last time around.
  • The original four vault-hunters will have their own back-stories fleshed out a little better, and they will share their experiences with the vault and where the last five years have led them.
  • Claptrap, for better of for worse (better, it is for the better!) is missing from the fray altogether.

BORDERLANDS 2: THE CLASS(ES)

  • The Gunzerker is one of the four new classes: a stout, bearded, dual-weilding drwarf, Salvador. Can he dual-weild any two weapons? Yes. Even two massive rocket launchers? Oh yes!
  • The new classes have all-new skill-trees. They will remain three-pronged, however.

BORDERLANDS 2: THE MISSIONS


  • The “mission-dispenser” NPCs are gone. Instead we will now see fully animated, interactive and fleshed out NPCs, both in quest givers and world inhabitants. You can still breeze through mission text and rush through the campaign if you like.
  • You can fail missions, and not have to reload, though that will not be without consequence. In one of the showcased missions, you are asked to rescue Roland, the original soldier from the first game. Failing said mission will have consequences in later missions, in addition to upping the difficulty in the current mission itself.
  • One mission asks you to activate a beacon at the base of the dam. On the way you get ambushed by a thresher, a land worm who swallows the beacons and runs off. You then have to chase it down, as the mission objective shifts, and even after a climactic battle with the beast, the mission isn’t over. You have to take the beacon to a bandit-infested town, and defend it as you deploy it. All of this is a single mission in the game.
  • Design Director Paul Hellquist says each mission is three times the size and scope of the cookie-cutter missions of the first game.
  • The original Borderlands featured too many “kill ten rats”, “fetch five PDAs” type quests. Question structure and objectives are much more dynamic and varying.

BORDERLANDS 2: THE ENEMIES

  • Enemies now communicate with one another.
  • Enemy AI is significantly improved. They will now strafe, duck, traverse the environments better and even climb obstacles.
  • The Bloodshot Bandits are back. These gun-worshiping nutjobs are the source of a lot of misery on Pandora.
  • One new form of enemy is called a W4R-D3N, a mechanical monstrosity.
  • Another enemy looks like a cross between a Skag and a Pterodactyl. So the wildlife will also expand in Pandora.
  • There will be a “Tremors-esque” land worm.
  • The Surveyor is another enemy, a support unit that heals enemies in the heat of battle, and when cornered, puts up a shield that reflects incoming damage. They respond dynamically as enemies call out for help, none of the sequences are scripted.
  • A new combat system lights up an icon atop wounded enemies calling for help, so you can make informed choices about what to target next.
  • One of the screens depict a massive snowy behemoth, the Arctic Bullymong. A cross between a gorilla and crab, the beast is nearly four times the size of Salvador, the only playing character/class revealed so far. It can use environmental objects and hurl them at the player.
  • The Skags are back as well, but they are much more vicious and coordinated. In one sequence, the player is fighting off Pup Skags when a Badass Fire Skag erupts onto the battlefield. Sounds pretty standard from the first game. But then everything changes when the Badass Fire Skag lights the ground in a breath of flame, igniting the Skag Pups and giving them significantly enhanced attack and defense capabilities, thus creating new, interesting combat dynamics.
  • The Nomad are another bandit tribe, except rotund, armored with shields and much more menacing. One type, called the Torturer, has a midget strapped to its front as a meat-shield to soak up damage. You can either kill them both, or shoot the chains that holds the midget in place. The midget may then turn on the torturer, allowing you precious moments to flank and take out the preoccupied Nomad.

BORDERLANDS 2: THE LEWTS

  • Combat possibilities continue to multiply with new gameplay elements in addition to skills, weapon characteristics, class mods, and a new element, Eridium, which also doubles as the game’s currency.
  • Eridium can be used to enhance existing guns beyond their initial attributes and abilities.
  • Eridium is also used in a variety of power-ups, such as temporarily increased health, defense and damage.
  • You can shoot an enemy who has a power-up equipped, and pick it up to use yourself after dispatching him.
  • Artifacts will no longer be just elemental damage-based. They will work in a wide variety of ways, such as giving you a chance that your shots will not cost ammo, a healing aura around the player, or increased afterburner in vehicles etc.

BORDERLANDS 2: THE GUNS

  • None of the guns from the original Borderlands will return. But don’t despair, instead, there will be millions of new guns for you to drool over!
  • The first game featured a number of gun-manufacturing companies. What most players don’t know, is that weapons from different manufacturers featured company-specific enhancements. For example, Hyperion weapons offer reduced recoil and as such better accuracy. Vladof featured the highest rate of fire, and so on. This will continue in Borderlands 2, however, the visual design will also represent the different manufacturers. The gun will visibly look “more Atlas” or “more Torque”, depending on its origin. Vladoff rifles will look like AK-47s from the cold war. Dahl rifles look sleek and modern, as if plucked directly from Battlefield or Modern Warfare.
  • Some manufacturers will feature truly twisted gameplay opportunities. Tediore guns can be fired till the magazine runs out. The empty gun is then tossed onto the battlefield like a grenade, and much like a grenade, it explodes. A hand-held digistruct (the same device used to construct vehicles at vehicle stations in the first game) then creates a new copy of the gun in your hand with the next magazine loaded. Crazy!
  • The guns will look much better, with improved texture, reflections and materials.
  • The number of “unique” guns in the world has been ramped up quite significantly, and they will feature custom enhancements. In the example given, a gun dropped by nine-toes will have his tenth toe taped to the gun as an ornament!

BORDERLANDS 2: THE VEHICLES

  • The Bandit Technical is a new vehicle in the game.
  • Vehicles will feature much more detail, better textures and personality.
  • Some vehicles can powerslide and all offer better collision detection.
  • Vehicles will seat four players to support a full four-player co-op.

BORDERLANDS 2: MISC

  • Gearbox’s recently built fully-equipped motion-capture studio really livens up the game with incredible animations. Borderlands 2 is captured by 24 independent T-100 cameras at 16-megapixels, providing smooth, life-like animations for in-game characters.
  • The world areas are larger, more vivid and more detailed; the playable areas are much larger than the original world.
Categories: Bronte

“Borderlands 2: GameInformer Scans” or “Pandora Won’t Know What Hit It!”

August 11, 2011 Leave a comment

I managed to dig up these scans of the 15-page exclusive Game Informer had on Borderlands 2. All images are legible, so take a gander!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Categories: Borderlands 2, Teasers

“Champions Online: Superhero Simulator” or “Global Agenda: Superagent Simulator”

August 10, 2011 2 comments

The wait for the next generation of MMOs is unbearable at this point. I have quit WoW. World of Tanks simply wasn’t my cup of tea. I dabbled in Lord of the Rings Online, but it was a barren wasteland, and I rarely came across any players in the first 22 levels in a “well-populated” server, so eventually I just got tired of playing solo and quit LOTRO as well.

I have now downloaded both Champions Online: Free For All, and Global Agenda: Free Agent, partly because I am itching to play an MMO, and partly because they were in my Steam “free to play” section, and it was just convenient to download and install both clients.

Superhero Simulator

I had a lot of issues, I mean a LOT of issues, with Champions Online. I despised the title to the point that I could not bear to play the game a month past the initial “free” month. Even back then, must have been September/October of 2009 or thereabouts, I thought Champions Online would have benefited greatly if it was a free-to-play title, because it had a lot of things going for it. I am not saying free-to-play titles are allowed to have broken game mechanics or unpolished gameplay, not at all. I am just saying that it didn’t make sense to call it a AAA title when the game was dramatically and drastically altered on launch day itself because of blatant balance issues.

When I logged in this time, using the same username/password that I had used nearly two years prior, I was surprised to find my original characters still intact. Now because those characters no longer fit into the free archetypes that free accounts have access to, I could not load the world with those characters and play to my heart’s content, but I was grateful that my old characters were still intact after all that time.

I made a new character. I should rephrase, I am in the process of making a new character.  had actually forgotten how incredible complex, deep and fun the hero builder tools could be in Champions Online. With literally thousands of combinations, even with in the free account, you can create a truly unique looking hero.

Superagent Simulator

A lot of people who play this game had remarked that you could play Global Agenda for any length of time without feeling like you are tied down to a raid or dungeon run at a designated time. You could jump in and out of missions on the fly and play as your schedule suits you, not the other way around. Given the sheer shortage of time that has become the bane of my existence lately, this was a major plus point for me.

I have only played the tutorial of this game so far, and I have been quite impressed with the way the single-player (near) obligatory tutorial section is designed. It has a cool storyline, plenty of interesting cut-scenes and it introduces gameplay mechanics in interesting and unique ways. So far I have had a blast and I will continue to play it until I have a good enough handle on the game to start tackling mission and get into the MM part of this MMO.

“Se7en Tidbits: Diablo 3 Edition!” or “Actually it’s More like Th13teen Tidbits!”

August 6, 2011 2 comments

Diablo 3’s latest announcements seem to be all the rage these days. To recap Diablo 3 will:

  • require a persistent online connection to play (more details here).
  • feature a player-to-player auction house in which you can sell in-game items for both gold and real world doubloons.
  • not allow any modding whatsoever.
  • be released at the end of 2011, maybe; most likely in the first quarter of 2012.

The reactions to this news have been largely negative. I don’t agree with that sentiment largely because as an MMO player, I don’t have a problem with a persistent online connection, and also because is Blizzard wants to legitimize the eBay selling of items for real money and cash in on the action themselves, I don’t really have an issue with it. It’s a shrewd sales decision, and doesn’t bother me in the least bit. The lack of mods, however, is a little ill-informed.

The same, however, cannot be said for everyone else:

  • Duncan Geere of Wired UK calls the legitimizing of in-game auction “ugly”, and that the lack of modding is “utterly baffling”. For some reasons, she believes it won’t launch until the end of 2012 though. Not sure where she got that bit of info.
  • Ian Hamilton over at The Orange County Register feels that this new auction house system will turn a hobby into a part-time job as all players will fee pressured to sell items on the AH, hoping to make a quick buck. He is also greatly concerned over the IRS’s reaction, as many now claim that the sale of virtual goods should be considered income.
  • Chris Morris at Gamasutra feels that the fanbase is either overreacting, or really isn’t all that upset in the first place, just blowing smoke. Blizzard isn’t a dumb company, he says, and it didn’t get to become the behemoth it is today by not catering to it’s loyalists.
  • Blessing of Kings‘ Rohan had the first legitimate argument I read against the system. It will legalize and even encourage farming, and I agree.
  • Anjin from Bullet Points isn’t all too happy though. I think. Look at his screenshot and decide for yourself!
  • Screaming Monkey‘s lonomonkey is screaming all monkey-like about being really uncertain about this move. He’s exercising the prudent option of waiting and seeing how this pans out.
  • Klepsakovic from Troll Racials plans to wait a few days for everyone to forget about this and find something else to complain about. Fair enough!
  • Player Versus Developer‘s Green Armadillo doesn’t place much faith in the “pay to win” gripe. Citing Runes of Magic as an example of players upgrading their gear through frequent content patches, he is more concerned about the indirect effects of putting the developer in the business of making money when players replace their gear.
  • Spinks over at Spinksville feels that involving real money will give a very tangible shape to the opportunity cost associated with playing MMOs or persistent online games, and isn’t too excited about the utter lack of mods.
  • Big ol’ bear Wilhelm Arcturus, The Ancient Gaming Noob, had his vacation interrupted, so he isn’t a happy camper to begin with But he feels that the signs for this move were all around us, such as lack of LAN for StarCraft II and the implementation of the Real ID system. His sentiments on Blizzard cashing in on the item trade action is the same as mine: it is a smart business decision and it puts the control directly in their hands.
  • Tobold cites Eve Online as an example of the auction house system already underway, and calls the tribal mentality of fan-bases hypocritical.
  • Ceraphus at Variant Avatar has an intelligent argument for why we could see this system (if successful) in WoW or the upcoming “Titan”.
  • Ferrel at Epic Slant doesn’t feel this will really make that much of a difference at any level, but he calls shenanigans on the blizzard argument that this system allows players with less time and more money to advance their characters.
  • Finally, Scott Jennings over at Broken Toys, a game developer himself, sees the logic behind the auction house move. He predicts, and I agree, that World of Warcraft and StarCraft II were the last Blizzard titles without a built-in RMT system.
Categories: Controversy, Diablo 3, DRM

“Dastardly Diablo 3 Drama” or “Ostensibly (and Sensibly) Online”

August 5, 2011 Leave a comment

There seems to be a lot of drama over DRM. Ubisoft, of course, took it a step further by saying that their persistently online DRM solution was a stellar success, leaving a lot of confused fans in this statement’s wake.

Blizzard recently also announced that their upcoming Diablo III will also require players to be consistently online to be able to play, but this resulted in a very odd backlash, particularly from my peers in the MMO blogging community. I can understand people who primarily play single-player games to be upset about this. After all, they just pop the DVD in, and online or not, they can play to their heart’s content.

Blizzard in their defense, offers the following points:

  • A persistent friends list (debatable, especially if you like playing solo).
  • Cross-game chat via the RealID system (again debatable).
  • Persistent characters that are stored server-side (no more having to play online once every 90 days, nor item duplication cheats) (valid, it does ensure almost no client-side hacks or item-duping. I say almost because every time you make a system hacker-proof, groups like Lulsec and Anonymous feel a disturbance in the force).
  • Persistent party system (debatable).
  • Player-versus-player and public game matchmaking (valid, you would need to be online for PvP).
  • Dynamic drop-in/out for co-op (valid, if you have friends playing with you, it would be stellar if you could drop in an out of a friend’s game world as needed, much like Borderlands).
  • Larger item stash that gets shared among all of your characters (at the moment, up to 10) (nonsensical, they could easily increase offline storage, this is more of a ploy to justify the DRM).
  • The auction house (valid, you would need to be online to play the Auction House with potentially hundreds of thousands of other sellers/buyers).
  • The Achievement system and detailed stat-tracking, both of which feed into the final point (valid):
  • The Banner system, a visual way to display your prowess in the game. Banners start out like emblems, where you can choose from an array of symbols, patterns, and overall shape/design. Then, you can tweak its appearance through Achievements and other accomplishments. Examples Pardo cites include whether the character is in Hardcore mode, how many Achievements have been earned, how many PVP victories, and so forth. Additionally, the Banners also have gameplay features; in-game, rather than use Town Portal, you can click on a player’s Banner to instantly teleport over to said player (debatable if you don’t play with others, limited use if you do).

As an MMO player and a Star Craft II player (which also requires you to be online for achievement tracking and, of course, PvP), these seem like perfectly valid reasons.

My point is that as MMO players, for years now, we are used to playing persistent worlds that require a highly stable and reliable connections. In fact, our favorite genre of gaming would not exist without the ability to stay online consistently. Yet there is this angst over ‘being made to’ stay online to play the single-player version. In principle, I do feel that if you are a player who enjoys playing solo, you shouldn’t have to worry about a consistent online connection. But at least the MMO players should have no issue with this. We do this on a daily basis, with the dozens of MMOs that grace our screens for hours on end.

Thoughts?

Categories: Diablo 3, DRM

“Borderlands 2 is Official” or “We’re Headed Back to Pandora!”

August 4, 2011 2 comments

It’s official! The sequel to the popular RPG-Shooter hybrid is in development, and the first look features a… dual-machine-gun-totting… midget? 2K Games and Gearbox Software, fresh off of the development of Duke Nukem Forever, have made it official: Borderlands 2, the sequel to 2009’s highly successful Role-Playing-Shooter, is in development. Development on the title must have been going on a while, because fans can get their first glimpse at the title at Gamescom and PAX 2011 this very month.

In the summer Steam sale, a friend and i bought the four-pack, got a few friends involved and had a blast ripping through Pandora. It’s has all the gun-totting action of a modern shooter coupled with the additive loot-whoring of Diablo II (and soon, III). I for one, can’t wait!

The press release states that the game is being simultaneously developed for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Windows-based PCs. The game is tentatively slated for a fiscal year 2013 release, which starts on April 1, 2012. The sequel will continue to evolve the game mechanics and story from the first game with all new characters, skills, environments, enemies, weapons and equipment, and a new story. And yes, the story will continue into the unexplored regions of the world of Pandora.

Additional details can be found in Game Informer Magazine’s latest issue, which runs a cover piece with 12 pages of content on Borderlands 2.

You can read the official press release here, and the Game Informer Magazine’s teaser here.

Categories: Borderlands 2

“Why I Quit WoW, Again” or “The Endless Cycle”

August 2, 2011 9 comments

I have “quit” WoW a grand total of… well actually I have lost count at this point. It is a great game, one that has been the cause of many a triumphs and digital glories, but also one that stagnates over time and becomes too “casual-unfriendly”. I have also come to realize that WoW is a great game if you are at the top of the food pile, the 10% or so of guilds that raid regularly, accomplish goals and manage to dent the world in their own way. If you don’t have a guild to run things with, you’re either on your own, or you are playing with a rather large contingent of blithering idiots who can’t tell their two handed mace from their short sword.

Over the course of time I have started to run out of time. In college, I could get back from classes, do a bit of work, raid for four hours on a stretch, play a little more, and still have time to go out with friends for a couple of drinks. Now there are several days when I can’t play anything because everything is packed in so tightly, there is no wiggle room. It has been brought to my attention on a few occasions that I “need to learn how to say ‘no'”, and I “need to lessen the load on my plate.” But all of that is easier said than done when you are involved in as many things as I am.

The ‘gain’ vs. ‘fun’ Debate

WoW, by the end of it had become a chore. I logged in every day, and because of the lack of time, I would try to maximize my ‘gain’ in the game. Veteran MMO players will understand this. There is a very thin line between maximizing your gain from the game (be it loot, gold, experience, or anything else that somehow advances your character in some dimension), and just having fun. Years ago, leading a guild, downing the toughest raid bosses was fun, because I had all the time in the world to spare. Now everything was centered around the maximum gain. I realized soon that I hated what I was doing in WoW. I would log in every day, finish the compulsory dailies, and try strenuously to find a half-competent group to run a 5-man with, followed by some AH manipulation and then log off till the next day.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

It was monotonous, boring, and more than a little tedious. By the end I was just trying to justify paying for the subscription in-game, because I somehow owed it to those measly $15 to put in my time and advance my character in whichever small way possible. And during all this, I wasn’t having any fun at all.

So that is why I quit.

Categories: Opinion, World of Warcraft