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Archive for January, 2012

Quote of the Day: “The Truth Hurts” or “Why Does Everything Take Longer?”

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Mr. Justin Olivetti had a gem of line in his latest post today:

I just kind of assumed the game would have them level up rapidly as with any other BioWare title, but I guess I should’ve realized that this is an MMO, and MMOs mean “Everything takes longer.”

Where’s the dialogue option for “Friend Zone”?, Biobreak

“Power-Leveling Professions” or “Money is Time, Friend”

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Power-Leveling Professions

A lot of gold making blogs out there will tell you to capitalize on the need for this generation of instant gratification to get what they want with minimal effort, even if the path they takes ends up costing them a lot more than the fair market price of the item. Examples include buying rare companion pets from from vendors in Netherstorm, and selling them for 200-400% their normal price, or buying that rare recipe that spawns once every half hour on that vendor, and auctioning it for 10 times the normal price. This makes sense to me. There is gold to be made at the expense of other people’s laziness, and their unwillingness to put in some extra effort that will save them currency in the long-term.

But then there are those times when I power-level my professions, irrespective of the cost of materials, because for me, hitting the profession level cap is far more important than saving the few thousand gold I will save by farming the materials myself. And therein lies the tradeoff. I make a lot of gold at the auction house, I am very good at it. Even in the inflated market of Cataclysm, I can net between 7-10K from the AH on a weekly basis, so money is no object to me in-game. As such, if I have a choice between spending that money that is just lying around, or investing hours upon hours, flying around, tapping nodes for those precious minerals one pickaxe-striking-node-animation at a time, I will always go for the former.

Am I a Lazy Gamer?

Does that make me lazy? I am generally not a lazy person, and given my nearly masochistic impulsion to pursue the most mentally debilitating of achievements in-game, I am certainly not a lazy gamer. When I started raiding on the new toon, my DPS was just about the tanks. This wasn’t acceptable to me. So I read up online, I theory-crafted, I painstakingly tweaked each and every little statistic, and gemmed, enchanted and reforged my heart out. I am now in the top four DPS’ers in the raid. Most importantly, I am not a lazy person in life.

The point I am trying to make is fairly pedestrian in nature: just because someone is buying your good at several times the market price may not be because they are lazy or ill-informed. It may simply be because they value their time over their money, because the ratio for the sheer amount of time invested farming, just to save those precious few thousand gold coins simply does not make sense to them. The process still ended up taking over two hours to get from skill 197 to 423, where I called it a night because I was moments away from a nosebleed! If I had to gather, say, the 320 units of Cobalt Ore alone, I could have spent somewhere between 5-10 hours farming. And that only got me skill points between 350 and 415. As far as I am concerned, paying 2-3 times the average market value for said ore, for me, is well worth the investment.

As someone who has played the auction house to his advantage since the game was in its infant stages, this is the first time I have gone all out, and spent “whatever it takes” amounts of in-game currency to power-level my professions, effectively filling the pockets of enterprising auction-house entrepreneurs. I have to admit, it feels pretty good to have enough gold to be able to blaze right past the arduous farming lane, and onto the endgame of a given profession, because let’s face it. The game is designed so you benefit (both personally and financially) when your profession is at the max-level, and not by selling copper scale pants all day. It is an interesting new perspective, one that gives me cause for pause (that should be a meme) and reevaluate how I view the market.

And then the goblin in me rears his green head, and asks, how can we use this new revelation to our advantage!

“Epic Witcher 2: Assassin’s of Kings Cinematic” or “The Best Cinematic You Will See All Week”

January 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Wait what? Didn’t Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings come out almost a year ago on the PC. Yes it did, but the Xbox 360 version is just coming out, and this new cinematic sets that up.

And boy is it glorious. The game stands out as my favorite title of 2011 (yes, even above Skyrim), and if you haven’t played it yet, I highly recommend it. Enjoy the trailer below

Categories: Teasers, Witcher II

Se7en of my Greatest Vanilla WoW Memories, Part II: “Molten Core… For a Price” or “The Beginning of the Qiraji Conflict”

January 26, 2012 13 comments

Note 1: This is a shout out to the old-school. You know who you are. 😀

Note 2: Part I can be found here. It contains our adventures with Lucifron and Ragnaros in The Molten Core. And our run-ins with the World Bosses. This is a 3-part series.

Molten Core… For a Price

Around the time that the Ahn’Qiraj patch announced, we decided for a multitude of reasons to switch servers. Bloodhoof was severely over-populated, and Blizzard has just initiated free transfers to a new server: Eitrigg. The move itself was fairly drama-free, with over 95% of the guild deciding to move together. We were sick of the server, and this one bully guild that trolled the hell out of everyone on the server. I am not denying that they were the top-ranked guild, and well-organized. I am just saying you don’t have to be an absolute dick about it.

So we transferred, and with us transferred two other Alliance guilds that we had close working relationships with, Harbingers of Death (HoD) and MUSA. I had forged a stable and mutually beneficial partnership with the leaders of both guilds and we shared resources and participated in World Boss kills together on occasion. For example, if they got legendary pieces, we would let them borrow Elementium Ore on faith, and vice versa.

The Ahn’Qiraj patch was still a few weeks out, and that was problematic because we had started to get a little tired of farming Molten Core and Blackwing Lair. With interest quickly waning in the two raid instances, I got my team of officers together for some brainstorming about how to keep the raiding game alive long enough to go at Ahn’Qiraj with the proper numbers. That week, a member of HoD asked me if their alt could tag along in our Molten Core run. He had been away that week, and had missed their own guild’s Molten Core run. 60-70% of the drop were getting disenchanted in the Molten Core anyway, so after consulting with the officers, I decided to let him. This individual offered 1K gold if his item dropped in the Core. The item dropped, the 1K gold was split between the 28 or so people that were present for the raid, and that gave me an idea.

The following day I made a post on the server forums saying that our guild would be running Molten Core and Blackwing Lair to help gear up players and their alts for a price. All they would have to do was show up, and we would farm the gear for them for a certain price. I set up an auction system, where they had until an hour before the raid to bid on items that were not needed by the guild. I would consider all bids before 6 pm server time, make a list of all the individuals with top bids that we would need to take with us, and enter the Core promptly at 7 pm.

That first week, we made nearly 7K from the Molten Core alone, and 7K gold in vanilla WoW days was an incredible amount of in-game doubloons. This led to BWL farm raids as well, and before I knew it, the guild’s raiders crawled back out of their hiding places, and we had full 40-man teams clearing the Molten Core and Blackwing Lair on a weekly basis until Patch 1.9: The Gates of Ahn’Qiraj.

The Beginning of the Qiraji Conflict

*How I Met Your Mother impersonation*: Kids, in the winter of 2006, Patch 1.9 finally hit, and all manner of pissed off Qiraji warriors started pouring out of the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj and infecting Azeroth. This was a great event for many reasons, poor implementation and unforeseen server crashes notwithstanding. First, the guild was hungry for new content; little did they know that the content would kick their ass into oblivion, but hey, at last we had something new and interesting to do. Second, the opening of the gates was an epic event. There were cross-continent quests, feats that needed to be completed in large numbers, and an invasion of Silithus and adjoining areas by innumerable Qiraji and their allies for us to fight off.

The quest involved building the Scepter of the Sifting Sands, which in turn required tracking down the Red, Blue and Green shards (each with their own quest lines). This scepter was then used to bang a gong outside the gates, triggering a 10-hour event. And this was the easy part.

The tough part was gathering the war supplies. Both sides needed together a certain amount of materials and submit them to NPCs in order to be able to count towards the server total. When all materials would be submitted, which, on some servers could take several (real-time) months. The necessary supplies were as follows (pilfered from WoWWiki):

Both factions need to gather:

The Alliance needs to gather in the Military Ward of Ironforge:

The Horde needs to gather in The Valley of Spirits in Orgrimmar:

These signets would then be turned into NPCs on both sides. Once all supplies were complete, both factions would start sending troops to Silithus for the war, and over the course of five real-time days, you could see supplies dwindling in the two faction cities as the armies marches on Ahn’Qiraj.

Only then could you use the aforementioned scepter to bang the gong, crack the Scarab Wall, and open the Ahn’Qiraj gates. The person with the gong would get a legendary Qiraji mount, mostly one per faction. If you had a complete scepter, you could hit the gong again and get your own mount, but only within the 10-hour event window of hitting the gong for the first time. Given the pain involved in completing the scepter, this was mostly limited to one person per server. Now that is truly a legendary achievement, to be the proud owner of a mount that only one person on the entire server could obtain. On Eitrigg, this honor belonged to a Paladin from Harbingers of Death, though I can’t, for the life of me, recall his name anymore. I mean this was six years ago!

And then you could finally get into the 20-man (Ruins of Ahn’Qiraj) and the 40-man (Temple of Ahn’Qiraj) and test your skill against the best the Silithid had to offer. It was a colossal event, one that required not only the guild to come together, but also required coordination with the Horde side for completing the war effort quests. It was a test of our perseverance, our patience, and our resources. But we banded together, as we had against every challenge thrown at us since launch, and we went on to conquer both instances, all the way to that sonofabitch C’Thun!

Categories: Bronte, World of Warcraft

“How I Use My Keyboard in MMOs” or “Too Many Keys, Not Enough Fingers”

January 25, 2012 10 comments

Perhaps it is time to invest in the Razer Naga, because frankly, there are just too many keys to press as a hunter at WoW endgame, the only MMO I am playing with some level of consistency.

But maybe, in the interests of providing some context, I should explain how I use my keyboard.

The Rules

There are a few rules for me when I set up my keyboard to play any particular game.

  1. There should be as few keys as possible
  2. The keys should be in close proximity
  3. I should be able to press Alt to change the function of a key completely.

The Primary Keys

The traditional bar (which I don’t use), allows you 12 keys, ‘1’ all the way to ‘=’. This clearly violates rule # 2, so the most I will work with is six keys. Since the ‘`’ key is not used in the original game, this makes ‘`’ through ‘5’ usable.

I also use the ‘Q’ and ‘E’ keys, while ‘WASD’ are used for strafing and lateral movement.

‘F4’ through ‘F9’ are used for ‘Trap Launcher’ and the five subsequent traps respectively. ‘F5’ has ‘Freeze Trap’ on it. The logic is that in the heat of battle, I can hit ‘F4’ (easy to find), then ‘F5’ (next to it after a dip) without having to look at my keyboard.

‘X’ is used for autorun.

The built-in shortcuts for various WoW menus and interface panels remain largely untouched.

The Alt Key

I also use the Alt key to completely change another key. For example, pressing ‘E’ normally triggers ‘Rapid Fire’. Pressing alt changes ‘E’ to ‘Readiness’. It makes sense two me because these two abilities are used closest together in a raid environment. The same logic applies to several other keys. For example, ‘4’ fires ‘Chimera Shot’. Pressing alt changes this to ‘Serpent Sting’. So you press alt to cast ‘Serpent Sting’ once, and then release alt and over the course of the fight, press ‘4’ to cast ‘Chimera Shot’, which refreshes ‘Serpent Sting’. The following macro makes this work:

#showtooltip [nomod] Chimera Shot; [mod:alt] Serpent Sting
/targetenemy [noharm]
/petattack [@target,exists]
/petfollow [@target,noexists]
/use [nomod] Chimera Shot; [mod:alt] Serpent Sting;

The lines regarding the pet simply directs my pet to attack the target I am attacking. This is rolled into about every ability to ensure they assist me every time. I find the pet bar option to be unreliable.

The Mouse

Left, Right and Middle buttons are a given. I also have two side buttons on my mouse, so both of those buttons ‘B4’ and ‘B5’ also get used. Using the alt and ctrl keys transforms these two buttons into six buttons. For example, my “survival” abilities are ties to ‘Button 5’.

‘Button 5’ = Disengage (used most often)
Alt + ‘Button 5’ = Feign Death
Ctrl + ‘Button 5’ = Deterrance

Clique Mod

In addition to this, I also use Clique mod, and some of my abilities are directly programmed into it, for example, alt-clicking any portrait will cast ‘Mend Pet’ on my current pet. Middle clicking on any portrait will cast ‘Misdirect’ on that person.

Here is a screenshot of my keyboard set-up:

I hope the commentary above now makes sense with this.

The following are some of the problems that I think exist with this setup.

  1. The Clique mod is being used for only two abilities. I think I can intelligently ramp up this number and tie in some keys that can get em out of a pickle in the heat of battle.
  2. The Ctrl key is hard to reach, and only programmed into one of the “survival” groupings. I think I should get rid of this.
  3. The ‘Z’, ‘Shift’, ‘F’ and ‘8’ – ‘=’ keys are not being used. Thought it must be said that aside from ‘F’ most of these are hard to reach, given my set-up.
  4. The keys ‘F1’ – ‘F3’ are not being used. But I don’t know what to put in there.
  5. There are too many buttons. This may be really screwing me up in the grand scheme of things.
  6. Since I use the mouse buttons very extensively, I think I should get a Naga-esque mouse with more than just two extra buttons to play with.

Any suggestions for improvement?

Categories: Bronte, World of Warcraft

“I Miss the Gold Old Days” or “Vanilla Nostaglia”

January 20, 2012 3 comments

Gold then.

A while back I put up a post titled: ‘“I Miss 40-man Raids” or “Vanilla Nostalgia”‘. Turns out that isn’t the only thing I miss about the vanilla days.

One of the systems that has gone through a radical transformation over the last seven years of WoW has been gold acquisition. I remember when gold was a highly sought after commodity. Having 100 gold in your inventory at 60 was a big deal. When buying a Krol Blade meant you had to save up some cash for a long, long time. I remember when the highest price on the AH would be three figures. Putting up something for 1K gold would get you ridiculed general and trade chats.

Daily Quests: Then

Um, we didn’t have any.

Daily Quests: Now

One of the ways to acquire gold these days (if you are not an enterprising Auction House player like myself), is to simply do the allotted 25 daily quests daily. If you got an average of 17 gold per quest, you would end up getting 2975 gold in a single week from just quest turn-ins, never mind the items you would pick up for vendoring or auctioning. I think that is a tad ridiculous now. Making nearly 3K guaranteed gold in vanilla would make me one of the richest players on any server. These days, thanks to inflation, this is the “norm”.

Dungeon Finder and Raid Finder: Then

A vanilla player would gawk at you stupidly. This was not even fathomable then. Hell even PvP was with players of the same server, and queues could be up to an hour long for AV.

Dungeon Finder and Raid Finder: Now

The sheer volume of gold you can make from DF and LFR is technically infinite. LFR will net you about 170 gold every week, so that is negligible. But you could technically keep queuing in DF all week, making 25G every run, in addition to whatever items you pick up for the AH or for selling to vendors, not to mention loot for your characters, disenchanted crystals and gold made from unfinished quests.

Gold for Experience: Then

If you hit the level cap of 60 in vanilla, any quests you finished past that point would result in getting you squat in addition to the quest rewards (be it currency or gear).

Gold for Experience: Now

Now, after you hit the level cap, the experience you would normally gain from turning in a quest gets converted instead to gold. I leveled my hunter in Cataclysm from 81-85 via Mount Hyjal, Deepholm, and a little bit of Twilight Highlands. After hitting 85, all the quests I finished in Uldum, the rest of Twilight Highlands, and Vash’ir nets me gold for experience. This concept was unheard of in vanilla WoW.

Gold now.

I hit level 85 in Cataclysm less than two months ago (I think), and I have over 50K gold, and that is with minimal effort and time invested. The point of this post, as was the case with the last one, is not to berate the WoW of today. The game has gone through an evolutionary process over the last seven years and a lot of changes are for the better. I just remember the good old days when being able to make copious amounts of gold was a skill and not a god-given right!

What do you think? Do you feel all this convenience is a good thing for MMO evolution, or has gold-acquisition been made too easy?

“There is a Disturbance in the Force” or “SWTOR Several Players vs Player”

January 19, 2012 4 comments

Slightly imbalanced!

Empire < Republic.

I don’t know what it is about the Dark Side of the Force, but clearly it is very alluring to human beings. With the Empire outnumbering the Republic forces by a considerable volume, it was only a matter of time before the imbalance in the PvP blew up in the Republic collective, melting faces. My question is this, did no one really see this coming?

Now I love BioWare. Aside from the mediocre Dragon Age II, I don’t think they have released a game in recent memory that has entertained me beyond expectations. What boggles me is how is it possible that so much time, effort, energy, money and resources were poured into a top of the line AAA MMO, and the multiplayer aspect of it is broken? Take Tol Barad for example. It is an open PvP zone most of the time, and anyone can come and go as they please, except for when every 2-3 hours there is a power struggle with both factions vying for control of the zone for the next 2-3 hours. The horrid mechanics of Tol Barad notwithstanding, what is great about this zone is that the system throws everyone out at the start of the fight, and brings in an equal number of players to face off. If 10 horde queue and 20 alliance queue, only 10 from each side will get in to ensure the fight is balanced.

Despite sinking millions of dollars into SWTOR, and, as my friend Matthew would claim, “revamping and or polishing the best WoW has to offer”, somehow they missed this little possibility. The forums are now ablaze with players up in arms about the whole fiasco, some even saying they are thankful for it, because now they can quit before the payment cycle kicks in after the first free month. Ouch. Offering incentives for players to come slaughter one another in world PvP is a great idea, if BioWare can ensure that the an equivalent number of players from either faction will engage in battle. Given that BioWare already had data indicating higher numbers in one faction, this should never have happened in the first place.

I have always been partial to being an early adopter. The initial feedback about SWTOR is positive, not overwhelmingly so, but the kind that piques your curiosity the more opinions you peruse. However, it is BioWare’s solution to this and similar future debacles that will determine if I ever invest in the title. And yes, I too will be joining the Empire!

“Patch 4.3 is the End for Cataclysm” or “The Monks Must be Meditating”

January 18, 2012 Leave a comment

The Pandaren monks must be meditating for a long time because it seems that they will be the next major content patch in WoW. That’s right kids, 4.3 is the end of the line as far as Cataclysm related content goes. I initially thought they might do something like “Sunwell for Cataclysm” to hold on to their player-base, considering especially that they have lost nearly two million subscribers in the last year. But no, good old Blizzard is sticking to their guns and maintaining Deathwing as the final major encounter in Cataclysm.

This effectively implies a few things for me as a player, roughly divided into two broad categories.

Category A: Quit until Mists of Pandaria

Fairly self-explanatory.

Category B: Prepare for the Expansion, Fluff and PvP

In this category I will certainly not be raiding. I have tried LFR, and the guild does weekly runs with 7/8 of Dragon Soul on farm status. But for me, that is just insufficient. I see little point in my character acquiring the top-tier gear when it will go obsolete next patch when a whole new ball-game begins. Instead, I’d rather focus on the things I have been meaning to wrap up. These include, in no particular order:

  • A proper secondary and tertiary alt
  • Level Archeology to the cap and go after some of the rares in that profession
  • Level my second profession, Blacksmithing.
  • Transfer the mining profession by leveling it through smelting on my secondary character, and pick up Engineering on my main.
  • Expand my companion list. I have 46 so far, with little effort. I wonder how well prepared can I be for Pokemon with any actual effort.
  • Do some of the fun little fluff achievements.
  • Loremaster (*shudder*)
  • Go after some of the rarer mounts, or mounts that take a great deal of effort and/or time
  • PvP my heart out, especially with the guild

At this point I am not sure. Any suggestions?

And no I don’t seem myself switching to another MMO, free or otherwise. Unless they announced when The Secret World was coming out.

“Fried Desktop” or “Stupid Electrical Storms”

January 16, 2012 4 comments

An accurate portrayal of the last thing my desktop ever saw...

So an electric storm fried my PC. The laptop and the Xbox are still intact, and I am grateful. But this also means that 120 hours of work in Skyrim has effectively effervesced onto whatever the digital equivalent of heaven is.

I came up with a creative solution for backing up my save game data though. All games that I have at this point, I am redirecting their folders as shortcuts in my Dropbox (check it out if you don’t know what it is, its amazing!) This way even if one PC fries, the files are synced across all computers that I have Dropbox installed on, and on their website!

Unless anyone else has any clever ideas…

Also wanted to share this little gem of a conversation I had with someone in trade chat recently:

 

Categories: Bronte, Skyrim

“Assassin’s Creed: Comparisons” or “Sins of Video Game Predecessors”

January 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Ready for a rant? Here we go.

It happened with Gears of War 3. It recently happened with Assassin’s Creed: Revelations.

In of itself, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations is a great game. It certainly plays a lot better if you have the previous games at the back of your mind, the mechanics are easier to pick up, the button combinations are familiar and the complex story continues from where it left off. However, even if you never played another Assassin’s Creed game, Revelations is a fantastic title. It is well-designed, the graphics are top-notch, and iterations of the same formula implies that Ubisoft has improved the game over the last five odd years into a smooth, entertaining, unforgettable experience.

What irks me though, is that nearly every review of the game incessantly compares it to previous titles in the series, and complains about how there has been “too little improved”. The same reviews give the title fairly high scores and say how well it plays, but at the same time complain about how familiar it feels. What is wrong with feeling familiar I ask? Why is it that we as gamers, and critics alike, cannot see a game on its own merits, irrespective of previous iterations. Sure it must be difficult at times, especially if it is a continuous story arc (like Creed or Gears) as opposed to separate stories (like GTA), but if a game is good, why does it matter what its predecessor did or didn’t do right?

I don’t think that practice is fair. I don’t think tinting the review because of a previous title gives us an accurate idea of the merits of the title under review in an unbiased fashion. And I think we should collectively stop doing that. So say we all!

“Eitrigg and Bloodhoof” or “Maelstrom and Aggamagan”

January 11, 2012 Leave a comment

In all my time playing WoW, I have, oddly enough, played on only four servers. When I was state-side, I first played on Bloodhoof, and the the entire guild made the transfer to Eitrigg. Recently when I joined Goblin’s guild on Aggamagan, I also started a mage on Maelstrom.

Having never played Horde-side (except for the very shiny new mage), I never really knew that Eitrigg was actually a fairly important character for the Orcs. It got me to thinking: “what do the names of the servers I play on mean in the larger lore context of the game?” Here is what I came up with.

Bloodhoof

This one was easy. The Bloodhoofs are one of the noble families of the Tauren Race. The two most significant characters are Craine Bloodhoof, the late High Chieftain of the Taurens, and Baine Bloodhoof. Cairne dueled Garrosh Hellscream but was betrayed by Magatha who secretly poisoned Hellscream’s weapon. The chieftain dying words were:

“And so, I, who have lived my whole life with honor, die betrayed”.

Baine Bloodhoof is Cairne’s son, and the new High Chieftain of the race.

Bloodhoof is also a village in the Mulgore zone.

Eitrigg

Eitrigg is an aging warrior of the Orc clan who fought in both the First and Second Wars and lost two sons in the process.

He sequestered himself to seclusion, but was stumbled upon by Tirion Fordling. The two fought, and the duel ended with Eitrigg rescuing an unconscious Tirion from a collapsing tower. Tirion is forever in Eitrigg’s debt and hold him in high regard.

In Wrath of the lich King, Tirion wrote to High Warchief Thrall, leader of the Orcs and the Horde in general, asking after Eitrigg and requesting that he be sent to Northrend as Tirion “needed a good Orc by his side.”

Eitrigg was one of the the three advisers Thrall recommended to Garrosh Hellscream as he ascended to the Horde leadership. the other two were Vol’jin of the Trolls and Cairne of the Taurens.

Maelstrom

Aside from being the most significant plot-location in Cataclysm, The Maelstrom was originally formed during the Great Sundering, some 10,000 odd years before the events of World of Warcraft (vanilla). Before that, it used to be the Well of Eternity. Here is an excerpt from the Warcraft III manual:

As the aftershocks from the Well of Eternity’s implosion rattled the bones of the world, the seas rushed in to fill the gaping wound left in the earth. Nearly eighty percent of Kalimdor’s landmass had been blasted apart, leaving only a handful of separate continents surrounding the new, raging sea. At the center of the new sea, where the Well of Eternity once stood, was a tumultuous storm of tidal fury and chaotic energies. This terrible scar, known as the Maelstrom, would never cease its furious spinning. It would remain a constant reminder of the terrible catastrophe… and the Utopian era that had been lost forever.

It is implied that the Maelstrom is slowly drawing the Broken Isles towards itself, and will ultimately destroy them for good.

Agamaggan

This one was a little difficult to find. Agamaggan a Giant Boar, one of the many ancients roaming Azeroth in it’s early days. During the War of the Ancients, Cenarius sought the assistance of Agamaggan against the Burning Legion. Agamaggan fought Mannoroth, eventually falling in battle, but his sacrifice was vital for Malfurion and his allies to enter the stronghold of Azshara and reach the Well of Eternity. Some of these events can be witnessed in the new 5-man dungeon,Well of Eternity.

What do the names of the servers you play on mean?

Categories: Lore, World of Warcraft

“Self-Vindication” or “I Guess I am a Good Judge of (Video Game) Character”

January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Via Kotaku, Skyrim, Portal 2 and Bastion lead the nominations for the 2012 Game Developer Choice Awards.

These are the same three games I mentioned in a post not long ago!

Categories: Bronte

“Handicap Accessible” or “LFR = Looking for Rez”

January 9, 2012 6 comments

For those of you who played WoW from the very early days, do you remember when:

  • Attuning for Onyxia meant weeks of farming UBRS with 20 people
  • Clearing to Lucifron took a half hour and a wipe or two
  • We used to raid with 40 people
  • Paladins were Alliance-only, and Shamans were Horde-only
  • Since each boss dropped only two tokens, that meant a 40-man raid would get geared from MC (assuming nothing every got DE’ed), at least 20 weeks, or five months
  • Vendorstrike was the longest running joke since you could take out Sulfuron Harbinger

What these factors have in common was that the end-game was designed to be conquered by only the most hardcore of players. It took time, and skill, and effort and energy to coordinate a team of 40 people, and some how avoid any idiocy. Raiding, gearing, attuning took time, effort, energy and patience.There were no 25-mans, no 20-mans, no 10-mans. A raid was 40 people, period.

First the 40-mans were reduced to 25-mans. Then 10-mans were added, but the coordination required for 25-mans was rewarded by putting in gear of a slightly lower ilvl in 10-mans. Then they were balanced out as well, and heroic modes were added. And finally we have LFR. Today you can log in, queue for LFR, and be raiding with the now-largest raid size (25), in a matter of seconds. There is no skill requirement (unless you equate ilvl with skill), there is no filtering mechanism for determining if an individual knows what to do in a fight. The bosses hit like pussies, the loot drops like rain, and WoW’s much-elusive end-game is officially accessible to any and all M&S. Hell, bots could get better results.

My point is that WoW is no longer just accessible. It is now handicap accessible. People that have no propensity for raiding, who actually don’t mind AFK’ing through most of LFR and then rolling need on everything that drops are flourishing, their lives made easier. The world’s largest MMO has all the mechanisms in place to allow an individual to play the game as anti-socially as humanly possible. Skill is no longer a requirement. Decency is no longer a requirement. All you need is a level 85, and a heartbeat.

If this post is too negative, I apologize. I don’t mean to be. But if you join an LFR raid, score consistently in the top three for DPS with your crappy gear, and your group wipes time and again on Ultraxion trash, it tends to strike a nerve.

Image courtesy of The Death Knight Diaries.

(Sidenote: if you are on the EU servers, pop in Aggamagan server, Alliance side. I play on a Night Elf Hunter called “Jehangir”.)

“The Holy Trinity of Modern Shooters” or “Do AAA Developers Care About Critical Success or Commercial Success?”

January 4, 2012 1 comment

The Holy Trinity of Modern Shooters

I haven’t played a shooter in nearly two months. I finished Modern Warfare 3 the day it came out, not because it was oh-so-good (it wasn’t), but because there was a story that has been in the making since 2007, and I wanted to see it to whatever (largely bitter) end. I also played Battlefield 3, which was shockingly similar in premise, up to and including playable Russian operatives, but moderately more enjoyable and equally unlikely. Gears of War 3 is sitting somewhere around my Xbox, ready to be played, but I think at this stage, I am just tired of shooters.

It seems to be that shooters these days rely primarily on the three factors:

An on-rails experience: Everything these days seems to center around playing the role of the developer’s puppet, a well-trained mouse making it’s way down an elaborate maze while an invisible hand guides it and ridiculously over-the-top set-pieces fuel it.

Over the top action sequences: You can survive bullets to the face, you can outrun a nuclear explosion, you can survive at least three separate helicopter crashes, you can jump from the tallest buildings without breaking bones. And while we are at it, why is it that 90% of the time, the chopper that was supposed to rescue you, crashes right before, during, or immediatly after the rescue attempt?

Shock value: This is perhaps the most critical of these elements. Every major shooter suffers from the need to create the biggest shock value, a controversial scene that will create airwaves, and fuel the next the right-wing anti-video-game-pundits tirade of why video games lead to artificial insemination or explosive diarrhea while simultaneously burning holes through our social and moral fabric.

Do AAA Developers Care About Critical Success or Commercial Success?

At this stage, I am just tired of the endless clones that result from the unholy amalgamation of the afore-mentioned three factors. Oddly enough, the best games of 2011, Portal 2, Bastion, Skyrim, did not need to resort to these elements in order to be critically successful. So perhaps all these developers care about at this stage is commercial success. Critical success and audience satisfaction be damned.

I am not trying to say that this is the only motivation. I am sure as a labor of love, most developers feel they are creating something of value that will be remembered for some time to come. The latest trailer for Rainbow Six: Patriots is a stark reminder of this. There is a scene where a civilian is instructed by a terrorist cell to go to Times Square to detonate the vest or his wife will be killed. Team Rainbow intercepts this man, realizes there is no time to diffuse the bomb, makes the split/second decision to chose the life of one over the lives of many, and throws him off of a bridge with seconds to spare. The bomb detonates before the poor bastard hits the water.

The developer jargon accompanying the trailer says the game will confront the player with similar tough choices, which begs the question: do they understand what ‘choice’ means? Choice implies that I have two or more ways of resolving a situation, and each of these paths has it’s own set of advantages and disadvantages. If one choice ends in one man dying, and the other includes him and everyone around you (including you) dying, is it really a choice? My point is that the entire thing is created for pure shock value, and the illusion of choice is stapled to it to give it illusion of meaning.

An article I read recently by a gentleman called David Burroughs on Sabotage Times called into question the need for such shock value, how it has diminishing returns and how it ultimately doesn’t add anything of value.

Is it right to expect the player to abstain from ‘murdering’ the ‘people’ in the airport when the only means of communication awarded the player is engage with the game and shoot, or do nothing?

Can something as intentionally controversial as ‘No Russian’ carry any real weight when the entire narrative is experienced down the barrel of a gun?

This is a very subtle but significant point. The whole point of the No Russian mission was to paint a picture of the atrocities of war, and how it would affect us if the horrors visited upon people in warzones were inflicted upon the ‘civilized’ world in a single act of mindless madness. But how can something like that carry any weight when the narrative involves you committing the atrocity. The whole point of identifying with the victims is to be able to paint on a face for the antagonist, but when you are the perpetrator yourself (or at the very least a silent observer) how do you create the impact? Ostensibly, the whole idea then, is to create controversy, an act filled with such a horrendous premise that developers know it will attract the ire of critics almost universally. And perhaps they welcome it. For no publicity is bad publicity, right? Except this strategy has exponentially diminishing returns.

Ever wonder why a small child getting blown up, while on vacation in Europe, in Modern Warfare 3 didn’t create nearly as much hype?

“Firefly, Buffy MMOs Officially Dead” or “They Existed?”

January 3, 2012 2 comments

News story from Massively.com today: Multiverse shuts down: Firefly, Buffy MMOs officially dead. Call me ill-informed, but I didn’t even know those existed! I would have at least liked to take a look at the Firefly one!

Categories: *facepalm*