Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Moving on Over

Hey all....just a notice that this site has now moved to:


Direct link here.

Go ahead and update your bookmarks. This site will have a lot more features for me to play around with...hence the move. I appreciate everyones support on this site...so tally-ho onto the next one.

D out

P.S. Please excuse the mess on the new site while I clean it up a bit. It might get a bite dyslexic over there....so be warned.

Left and a bit off center.

Oh man. I always had a sneaking suspicion that the mainstream media did not "get" games...well, more of a strong notion really. We've seen great examples of this lack of understanding due to games being scapegoats over the past couple of years for everything from youth violence to the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa (...ok, I made the last part up...). The latest article that I read that shows how clueless these people are. It's a piece from the BBC technology desk. Here's the beginning of the article:

"With more than eight million subscribers, World of Warcraft dominates the online gaming market but some strong rivals are gearing up to take it on."

Wow, that's quite a bold statement and it's one that we've all debated before...."Who will kill WoW?". Double wow, the BBC is getting into the debate...so they must know something we don't. Who are these "strong rivals" they speak of. Glad you asked...here they are:
  • Age of Conan
  • Lord of the Rings Online.
  • Star Wars Galaxies
...I'll wait while you guys settle down from laughter.


OK, everyone settled down now? Saaaweeet. Moving on.

Now, I know my readers are intelligent enough to know why that list is full of shit...but hey, I blog and like to talk, so I'm going to go through the exercise anyway.

Age of Conan:

This won't even come close to touching WoW. Actually, Conan will be lucky to know WoW's half cousin's dog's sister's boyfriend on his father's side. One reason...Conan is for adults. It will be rated A, which means Battlenet kiddies need not apply, which means the audience is limited, which means niche market, which means not a snowball's chance in hell of "taking on" WoW...ever. Conan will probably see around 250K users which is around 3% of what WoW has at this point.

Lord of the Rings

This one is tougher to call because, like Brad McQuaid mentioned, it's an x-factor...so I have no idea how or why the BBC is calling this one a contender when the jury will be out for some time to come. It does have the look and smell of an alternative to WoW, but that's all it might turn out to be. I've said it before, LoTRO is a solid offering right out of the gate, but it will be about a year until we know what kind of weight it has to throw at WoW. Right now, I'm hearing that LoTRO has in the neighborhood of 500K+ subscribers....and no, this is based on nothing but what I've heard, so save the emails please. Let's put it at ballpark of 100-500K right now, that only puts LoTRO between 1-6% of WoWs numbers. So, it's still got lots of room to get there but honestly, I don't think it will....nor do I think that is Turbine's intention.

Star Wars Galaxies

Are you out of your frackin mind!?

So there you have it. This BBC piece seems more like an editor going up to a correspondent and saying,

"You know what, those video games seem really hip and in with the youngins...slap me up something for tomorrow would ya?".

"But sir, I know nothing of video games. I usually only write about PDAs".

"Bah! Pick a few from this alphabetized list. Call them. Get some quotes and give it to me in the morning."

"Ummm. OK. Sure."

I'm still of a strong mind that the game that will really challenge WoW won't be known until it's actually challenging WoW. Any predictions on what that game is will usually be full of Murloc dung (...this blog included...). My guess, and strap on your Murloc dung suit, that game will probably be designed by Blizzard.

D out.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Challenge

Bah! Brent said the word "innovation" on his latest podcast...don't worry, he'll be suitably flogged for doing so. He brought up a little question near the end there, and like the sucker that I am, I will have to bite on it. The question is as follows (paraphrasing):

"Does the desire for truly significant innovation in MMOs actually mean that you're looking for the invention of a new genre of games, or are you not looking for the innovation of the MMO genre as much as you're looking for some small feature development that will add to the overall "cool factor" and immersion of the MMO genre without completely breaking down all of those afore mentioned design patterns that we've come to know and love...".

Now, in some way, I've already addressed this issue, but I'll go over my position on this whole innovation thing again...so some of this may be repeating myself just a tad. First, we're not going to see any innovation in 2007 or 2008 MMO offerings. What we're going to see is a handful of highly polished MMOs doing 2-3 things very right. These next two years or so are also going to be standardization years in which MMO companies informally agree and implement feature sets that players expect in their games, i.e. customizable interface, PvP, Combat, Crafting, changing world...etc etc. I'm not expecting a redefinition of the genre...what I'm expecting is an incremental feature development that adds to the MMO experience. What I'm also expecting is for each MMO company to launch HIGH QUALITY games...with no excuses of why they couldn't do so. Call me anal, but I want high quality software.

Does the MMO industry need innovation? Not right now they don't. What they need to do is execute what they currently know correctly and with a high degree of quality...and, of course, mix in a few features here and there to differentiate themselves from the competition. The reason other MMOs got spanked by WoW in 2004-present isn't because of a lack of innovation...it's because of a lack of quality, fun and accessibility. That's it.

Now, the biggest proponents of "innovation" in my little circle are Garry and Ryan of MOG...hands down. I have said this before, that I don't think we're going to see the type of MMO that they want for some time to come. We're at the flat part of the innovation curve right now, so we're not going to see much in upcoming titles...although, I think most will be fun to play.

D out.

P.S Brent, I've scheduled your flogging for 3pm on Sunday...hope that time is good for you :)

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Starcraft MMO? Maybe...

I don't usually post on the weekends, but this is an exception.

According to this, the next Blizzard MMO will be Starcraft. I still consider this a rumor until I hear otherwise from the belly of the beast. I suggest you treat it the same way. Regardless, we will find out on May 19th.

D out.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Toddler Rules

My 2 year old has one of the best bibs everrrr. Going to write this down for you all because I crack up at it every time I read it. It may also remind you of a certain segment of the MMO player base....

Toddler Rules
  1. It's mine if I like it.
  2. It's mine if I think it's mine.
  3. It's mine if it looks like it's mine.
  4. It's mine if it's in my hand.
  5. It's mine if I can take it from you.
  6. It's mine if I had it for a while.
  7. It's mine if it's yours and I take it.
  8. It's mine if you left it at my house.
  9. It's mine and it can't be yours in any way.
  10. It's mine! Mine! Mine!
...hehe...I love it.

D out.

More on Gods and Heroes

Some very good info about Gods and Heroes found here if you haven't seen if yet. I've mentioned before that I have reservations about the minion system. Well, the interesting part of the article states:

I run into the field, minions in tow - if I haven't mentioned it before, this whole minion thing is really really cool - and poke the stag with my pike. Nothing could have quite prepared me for what came next.

"...really really cool.."??? I was really hoping she'd expand on that statement, but alas, she didn't...so my skepticism remains. I think it the only way that this "icky" feeling about the minion system will go away is if I play it or someone I trust tells me otherwise. The feeling about minions is completely unjustified, I know, but it's something that I haven't shaken about the title at this point. The combat, however; looks outstanding. The interview above gives some information regarding the "paired animations', in which the enemy reacts to your hits...and I find that feature very appealing.

For those interested in the loot system for G&H, there is this to read. Very nice indeed.

D out.

The Grab Bag

Funny how things can go from zero to sixy over a course of a day...so let's get to it. This is going to a link/editorial post, so grab some popcorn people.

First up is a very interesting article from from the Escapist regarding the plight of modders within WoW...and oh my gawd do I ever feel for them. One of the more revealing entries in this article reads:

After he put so much into the compilation, Mazzlefizz felt betrayed by the community. It wasn't pleasant having such a small issue be the most discussed portion of MazzleUI. "There's just so many young, immature kids, so many bloated egos and such a high degree of self-entitlement. Complaining and criticizing are just the status quo," he said, before adding that not every experience he's had with users was awful. It's just "the negative aspects have outweighed the positive aspects lately and have caused me to … question the time and effort I put into developing my add-ons." To date, MazzleUI hasn't had any significant updates. MazzleFizz keeps busy collecting bug reports and has gone back to just playing the game.

(emphasis is mine)

Lots to say about this....actually, this one paragraph could be blog fodder for a week by my standards. Developing mods for the WoW community must be like cutting yourself and then wading into a pool of sharks with personality disorders. I used lots of mods when I was playing WoW and I have nothing but respect for the amount of time and effort that these people put into their work. I highlighted that one part because it reminded me of a post I did a last month regarding that sense of entitlement that gamers have in regards to access to all levels of a gaming company. I have always thought that gamer culture has this HUGE misplaced sense of entitlement in which they believe a) I shall be able to talk to the CEO at any time, b) I deserve the best right now, c) everything I think is wrong shall be fixed...now, d) all devs shall acknowledge my issues and concerns...now, e) I'm the most important player in the game and everyone else is newbsauce, f)...bah...I'll stop there...you get the picture. You can also see how the bloated egos come in as well. I've encountered a couple of these people in my travels and I just want to throttle them...grrrrrr. Why gaming companies and modders put up with these idiots is beyond me. They are not the normal player...they are social rejects with a superiority complex and need medication, not attention.

Next up, CoH released Issue 9 and it looks like its making a good impression. I haven't gone and checked it out yet, and honestly, I don't know when I will given the other things that I've got up and coming. Anyway, finally, after 2-3 years CoH/V has a crafting system. Too little too late? We'll see.

On the LoTRO front, there is a nice summary of impressions on Turbine's latest MMO over at Gamebunny. One of the summaries there brings up a good point...will LoTRO be the first MMO which has an ending? We all know what the ending is for this story, so it just makes sense that this may be the case. Turbine can prolong this as much as they want, because let's face it, there is a lot of material in those books to be had. There will be an end, no doubt...the big question is what, if anything, will they transition to when the end does come?

On the social commentary side of things, this bit of non-sense came up this week regarding gay marriage in LoTRO. Alright, my stance on this? In the context of LoTRO, there were no gay marriages...at least within the main story line. Given that, gay marriage of two dwarfs within LoTRO makes as about as much sense as a Hobbit with a ray-gun and jet pack. I really don't care if gays marry in the real world, but it doesn't mean we rewrite creative works and games to support it if it doesn't fit in the original context of the story.

Best for last, and I want to thank Cuppy for bringing this to my attention. Apparently, a new race and new adventure zones are coming to EQ2. One word...wow. The new race is called the Arasai and the new zone is Neriak. This is a dark Fae race that will compliment the recent additions from the EoF expansion. This is really great news for SOE and yet another example of how they've really turned EQ2 around from the shipwreck that it was. The only bad news about this is that I will now have to go back into EQ2 to take a look. OK, maybe that's not so bad after all :) Anyway, good show SOE...keep 'em coming. See, it's stuff like this that makes me wonder about why they're even considering taking on Vanguard.

D out.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Got Nothin

Crap! My mind is uncharacteristically blank today, so this won't be much of a post but we'll see how it goes.

Last night was a good night in LoTRO. I had a quest in my log called Retaking Weathertop. It's actually the last part of a chain quest (I think)...and man, was it ever a pain in the ass to finish. The second to last encounter was the insane part. It was against this Uru-Kai (..is that how you spell that??) who had about 9500 HP...hands down the toughest mob that I've come across so far. How many times did I try this quest? Glad you asked...five times over about 3 days I tried finishing this one up. I was finally able to be a part of a group full of guildies and we took him down in no time. Yayyyy for me.

One of the strongest hands that LoTRO has for it right now is that it really knows how to tell a story within the quests you are doing. This is especially apparent with the group and chapter quests. If you've tried LoTRO and put it down before you tried one of these story driven quests, you've made a mistake...pick it up again and try one out.

There are some criticisms about the game's combat and interface etc. To tell you the truth, I don't notice those things as much and I'll be damned if I know why that's the case...because those things usually would bother me. I have a very strong connection to my character and his role in the world. The landscape and the graphical implementation, like I said, really fits my eye...so maybe these combinations are hiding the common flaws of the game for me. I was golfing with one of my friends last year, and we got to a hole that I really liked. It was a nice dog-leg right, par 4 hole. I usually did very well playing this hole because it just fit my eye and my game. My friend hated the hole and usually did not do so well...a point of frustration that I took as much advantage of as I could /evil grin. LoTRO seems to be that kind of game for me right now.

D out.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Quest for the New Shiny

Don't worry, this won't be another Brad posting...the man is getting flogged enough as it is right now, and I won't be saying anything else until there is something new. However, the main sticking point of his last post was the technology needed to run Vanguard optimally. Apparently, you don't just need a new video card, you need an entirely new system. This just isn't a line of thinking that started with Vanguard, it seems to be a problem (yes...it's a problem) with most PC developers. They design games for computers that don't exist...and it's getting tiresome really.

I remember when Doom III came out. Boy, was I excited for that one. I read all of the previews, saw all the videos and looked at all the screenshots. I loaded it up, and "enjoyed" the slide show that I was presented with. Sigh. No problem, I've done this before...off to the forums for tweaking and optimization hints. I got the game running smooth and my conclusion...the game sucked. It looked good...but it sucked. The game was just a haunted house simulator wrapped in a graphical tech demo. I played for about an hour and then uninstalled it. There you go, a game that brought my machine to its knees and it wasn't really a game, it was just a graphics showcase. Why oh why....

Oblivion. Great game. It has the story. It has the gameplay and the character development....but man, the amount of .ini tweaks and mods I needed at the time to actually get a good framerate was mind boggling. EQ2...and I've said this before, this game was absolutely unacceptable in terms of framerate when it came out. That technical barrier to entry was at least part of the reason why it didn't launch so well.

This almost seems to be a North American phenomenon...and I have no idea why. Why devs seem to insist on developing a game for computer specs that the majority or players do not have or cannot afford. Their reason...."We want our game to look good 4 years from now". My answer, "I won't play your game now, let alone 4 years from now, if my machine slaps me across the face for installing your game." Devs seem to be more obsessed with shiny graphics than interesting game play and story lines....and we as players are too. What's the first thing players say about a game, "It looks really nice", or "The game looks gorgeous". How the game actually plays is usually what comes after how it looks. Of course, some would say, "Hey, this is a visual medium. Of course we're going to comment on what we see first." Sure, it is a visual medium, but I would argue that it's a game first and eye candy second. Yes, there is a balance between the two. A great game that also looks great is optimal. I just think the pendulum has swung to far to the graphics side of things...hence part of the reason why VG finds itself in a bit of trouble and WoW finds itself with 8+ million players. I'm not a game designer by any stretch of the imagination, but I do know that there are ways to cheat to make things look good....like the creative use of textures to make a low poly object look spectacular. I'm sure there are other ways of "cheating" as well and I hope that future MMOs use these more and more as we move forward.

WoW was created for the "common" computer and it has graphically lasted 3 years, which is close to a forever from a technology perspective. Honestly, it probably has a good 4-5 years left in it. So, whats wrong with developing an MMO for today's computers, maximizing your player base at launch and getting a good 7-8 years of revenue from it? Answer...nothing.

D out.

P.S Just as I finished this, I noticed that Ancient Gaming Noob also wrote a piece on the technology side of Brad's post as well.

Possible PoTBS Delay

I was going over the news this morning and reading the latest Pirates of the Burning Sea dev log and I came across this little tidbit of info:

"So, if we go down the route of a big box release (though it’ll still be available via digital distribution) it will require a delay in the release date. I’m not excited about delaying the game, but I am excited about a great launch.

The reason we haven’t talked in more detail about this is because we don’t have a signed contract with a distributor. Having been through a number of these legal negotiations, you never know exactly what’s going to happen until you have a signed document. So while we may delay, we’re still aggressively working towards finishing the game now, and have been putting our contingency plans in place."

So...prepare yourself for a possible delay in the release date of PoTBS while they sort out their distribution issues. They don't say how long the delay will be, but I can't imagine it wouldn't be too long...could it? Also, this "contingency plan" of theirs may make this delay disappear...so, we'll see.

On the good news side, they are going to be expanding the beta for the game. So far, they've been very stringent on who gets into the beta, but it looks like the flood gates may be opening soon.

From a development standpoint...it looks like they're polishing the game at this point, which is a good sign for a solid launch. We'll have to see if they "get" what MMO players are now expecting of their games in a post-WoW world.

D out.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

LoTRO Snag

OK, something is definitely not right in LoTRO right now and it hit me right in the face last night. Training and repair costs are insane....insane I tell you.

First let's talk training. I dinged from level 19 to 20 two nights ago and I said, "yayyy". So, I went to Bree to get my long awaited heavy armor skill, a rez skill and I think Parry II. I had about 90-100 silver on me. It pretty much took all of that to train up on two skills. I think the armor skill was around 50 and the rez was around 35-40 silver. I couldn't afford the Parry II nor could I afford to upgrade to any new armor or repair my current armor. Ooooookaaay.

We got a group together last night to do the quest "Retake Weathertop" (a very fun instance btw). We died a couple of times, the group decided it was too hard (even though it was white to us) and we all went on to different things. Before I logged off for the night, I went to repair and I had about 45 silver on me...the repair cost 65 silver. I managed to sell some stuff to cover the cost, but now I'm pretty much broke..and missing a skill because it's too expensive.

Tell me...how the frack am I supposed to save up for anything if all of my money...and I mean all of my money...is going to repairs and training. I think a horse costs 4 gold, so at this rate I will not be getting that anytime soon. I noticed this trend at around level12-ish and it's really showing it's ugly head at level 20+.

Note to Turbine. My repair costs should not be 50% of my total income. My training costs should not be 110%-ish of my income. Between levels, with questing and cashing in "trophies", I have about 100-115 silver on me. No, I do not buy a whole bunch of stuff on the AH and I keep horse travel to a minimum...which is another gripe, 10 silver for a horse ride???!! There's another 10% of my income between levels.

I heard little whisperings about the economy of LoTRO being a tad unbalanced. From this player's perspective, the costs for running your character are waaaay out of proportion to your income.

Anyone else seeing/experiencing the same thing? Looks like the devs are looking into it, but man oh man it hurts.

D out