Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Getting too familiar with your game

Well...two days ago I was not amused, today I must say that I am disturbed. Six days ago, Elysium from Gamers With Jobs posted his "Anti-Review" of Vanguard. If you go to that link, you'll see 6 pages of comments...I've read all of them. Some of them are good, sensible comments, but most of them are steaming piles of bile spewed out by people who are holding on too tight. Go ahead and read some of them...and don't stop there, this article has play in almost every Vanguard forum.

Why do you guys do that? I mean, honestly. The guy obviously spoke his mind on how he feels about the game and contributed content that takes a good critical look.... and he gets raped for it? Its wrong...wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

You Vanguard guys are supposed to be a cut above the WoW fanbois, and the crap that I read says you're no better. Have you been to the WoW forums lately? If you haven't, I suggest you do...and make sure you shower with a brillo pad after. I think we all need to turn a new leave in the MMO/Gaming community...and I know that this is going to be hard for some of you. Here's the idea: Don't say anything to someone in a forum you wouldn't say to their face with your grandma watching. How about that....

Now that I've vented...the GWJ guys talked about the thread at some length in their latest podcast (which, like Virgin Worlds, I listen to religiously). They bring up that these fanbois, not just Vanguard's, invest so much of themselves into these games that any critical or negative views on it is like a critical or negative view on them. The game, to them, is personal. It is their life, their soul, their preciousssssss. Still, we all need to check ourselves when we start attacking the person and not the idea. It's a tactic best reserved for the politicians....not for gamers. We should be debating, criticizing, examining, and questioning ideas both new and old. Fanbois, it seems, don't want to debate. They know what they know, when they know it and you are not to tell them otherwise.

/shrug...well. I think it was a good "anti-review". I think it was a good article that at least got me thinking. Pitty some don't like to think.

D out.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

On Pain of Death

These death pretzels are making me, they really are.

My ramblings about how unamused I am with the current Warhammer news has got me thinking about death penalties...what is reasonable, what isn't. Certainly, I think we can all agree that there has to be some penalty for dying in an MMO. We need some sort of risk in order to make the rewards we get more meaningful. MMOs today have a whole bunch of tools at their disposal in which to sting us with if the Reaper should visit our online self:
  • Death Debuff - this is usually some sort of debuff that is applied to your attributes for some length of time. This usually lasts for amount of time it takes you to get back to where you were when you died in the first place.
  • Equipment Durability - this is a hit on durability on your equipment which usually translates to some repair costs. So this is really hitting you more in the purse than anywhere else.
  • Corpse Run - we don't see it around very much, well, Vanguard has this as an option. This essentially strips all non-bound equipment off of you and makes you run to your body to pick up your stuff.
  • Experience Loss - whenever you die, you get an experience hit. Both EQ2 and Vanguard have this, as well as others to varying degrees.
  • Perma-death - to my knowledge, no current MMO has this. There may be ones that I haven't played that do have this (UO maybe???), but I'm not sure. This is kinda harsh, but essentially once your character dies, thats it....thanks for playing.
  • Item loss ?? Any MMO's use this beyond its current uses in PvP?
Thats all I can think of for now. You know, thats not many solutions when you look at the list. You'd think that there would be more by now given how long devs have had to think of the subject. I see the death penalty becoming less and less prominent in MMOs post-WoW simply because devs don't want to inconvenience that demographic of player. We should really start to think of new ways to handle death in MMOs because the ones we have all amount to the same thing...a time penalty that adds nothing to gamplay. You either have to wait for the buff to wear off, or pay off a repair bill (time is money), or grind to get exp back. There has go to be something else. What about karma??

Karma...there is the new approach. From wiki:

Karma is a sum of all that an individual has done, is currently doing and will do. The results or "fruits" of actions are called karma-phala. Karma is not about retribution, vengeance, punishment or reward, karma simply deals with what is. The effects of all deeds actively create past, present and future experiences, thus making one responsible for one's own life, and the pain and joy it brings to others. In religions that incorporate reincarnation, karma extends through one's present life and all past and future lives as well. It is cumulative.

Now, lets apply this to MMO death. Living through an encounter should not only give you gold and loot, it should also give you some kind of life karma. Much like skill points, this life karma builds up and gives you access to equipment, supplies, buffs or new areas as you go along. The more life karma you have, the better off you are. Death karma can either take away life karma or it could be tracked on its own....but there should be something bad that happens to your character if your death karma gets to high. I don't know, maybe your forced into some hell zone where you and others have to fight in order to redeem yourself and reset your karma. Maybe you turn into some sort or Wraith-like-ghost and the only way you can get karma back is by sucking it out of other players.

See, just in the matter of 30 minutes I came out with a rough death system that is different. Sure, it still involves some time to commit, but I don't think you can ever get out of that for MMOs...well, for any computer game...they all take time to play. At least this solution is one which uses that time to add to the game play. Heck, you may have players who stay as Wraiths and just suck karma out of players...and maybe that can be an element you can advance in, who knows. In comes to this; yes, we need a death penalty, but lets mix it up a bit...heck, if it only took me 30 minutes to come up with this, I can only imagine what a real game developer can think of if he/she thinks outside the box.

D out.

Monday, February 26, 2007

I am not amused....

Some news came out about Warhammer that I needed to munch on before commenting on it... specifically the T for Teen rating and the absence of a death penalty. Quite simply, I'm not sir, I am not. This puts this title down in my list because it just became more like WoW with those two elements. I defended this game when it came to those game "journalists" who repeatedly asked "...why does your game look like WoW? Oh...look at the little kitty...yayyyyyy, a kittie". OK, they didn't say anything about kitties, but you get the idea. To me, the game play was leaning towards DAoC in terms of RvR and it looked like it had a grittier and more mature look to it. So, I didn't give a rat's ass if WoW took their orcs from Warhammer...differing gameplay was the key and these yokels were missing the point. Sigh...with these two announcements, I am not looking forward to this game as much as I did, because the game is now slowly morphing into WoWHammer.

There is something else that's been grating on my nerves about's the coverage of the game from Mythic itslef. I'm not going to point anything out specifically, but they seem to be tooting the PR horn a bit too hard IMHO. Instead of a game company proudly plugging their next game, the intensity and vigor they are using is making them sound more like a cross between a gameshow host and a car salesman...both of which turn me off.

I also fear that the success that LoTR deserves is now in jeopardy with this as well. Before, I always assumed that Warhammer (with an M rating) was going to be for the non-WoW crowd and that LoTR (with a T rating) would be another option for the burned out WoW player. Now, we have both Warhammer and LoTR as options for the ex-WoW player to go to, which, in theory will split the numbers somewhat. Since we all know that most WoW players can't read (/ know who you are), we all know where they'll go.

About the no-death penalty...again, something WoW players love and will attract them to this title. This is a smart business move on the part of Mythic, but its a slap in the face to Warhammer fans who want something a bit more meaningful from this IP.

So there you have it. Warhammer is now on my semi-stink list for the time being until more news comes to light. LoTR is still the one to watch I think, but given this new competition from Warhammer to take WoW players...this may be a prediction I'll have to re-evaluate.

D out.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Diplomacy Info

I'd like to thank some of my readers for some great info on Diplomacy, specifically Stargrace and Geregor. I'm personally finding hard to find information on the finer points of this game since there are no forums to centralize all of this stuff.

Here is a great website that Geregor has pointed us to. Specifically I found this little Diplomacy nugget in their forums. Direct link here.

Thanks to those at VGTact for getting this together.

Like everything in Vanguard right now, Diplomacy is a work in progress. Both Geregor and Stargrace point to these Diplomacy features we can look forward to (From Geregor's comments):

They will implement to diplomacy next months:
1- the classes after skill 300 (I am not sure how many players are skill 300 now, but I guess that they aren't more than 50...);
2- the merchant system (get money, know the world, trip to all cities at Telon, I advice to buy a fast horse and a ship...);
3- the writs and embassies (partially implemented, some cities have it, you can be an ambassador to other race or a royal officer that deal with the military questions - or any other important city's question - inside your city);
4- open dungeons and quests (implemented? not implemented? no idea, high level diplomacy, no one get there yet to say the story);
5- player city administration (remember the politic class at SWG?).

Good stuff.

D out.

Our Vertical Obsession

Sifo put up a very interesting blog post that got me a thinkin...and no, I didn't hurt myself this time. It wasn't the main subject that caught my attention, although I may address his main argument in a post later on. What caught my attention was when he said this:

In MMOs the player level progression is always upward. When you reach that level ceiling then Devs really need to focus on the content. Leveling is usually enough to keep people satisfied but when they reach the max level it is all about the content (ie quests).

The bold text is my emphasis, not his. In MMOs, the player level progression is always upward.....our vertical obsession is laid out before us with these few simple words. It's very true with most MMOs that are offered at this time. The main way in which we grow our character is always upwards in level. Most MMOs have two sets of progression...a crafting progression and an adventuring progression. In these two fields you have the opportunity to increase your level, and with each level you unlock new content or's the standard MMO formula. With Vanguard hitting the scene, it introduces a new way to level your character: Diplomacy. OK....not too clear why I need to level this skill up just yet, but I'm sure it'll be made clearer to me later on.Why do we need to concentrate on leveling UP? Why are we always thinking so vertically? Isn't there a way we can get some horizontal thinking going here.

What is horizontal character growth in an MMO? It's when you fill out your character within a level. Think of your character as a tree. Each branch is a level...each branch and leaf off of that branch is an attribute of your character which needs to be filled out within that level. Most MMOs do have this: WoW being at one end of the spectrum and Vanguard being at the other. WoW has very little in the way of horizontal growth. Sure you have your Sword, Dagger, Wand skills...but not much else beyond basic weapon and/or tool use. Vanguard has almost too many things that your character is working on at any given time...some may say too many. Vanguard has Combat Awareness, Sword kills, Acute Pastry Detection and hundreds of others that I'm sure I'm missing.

Sure, going "Ding!" is very nice in an MMO, and lets face it, it's the main way we all measure our e-penis, however; its also part of a big problem we are facing when it comes to these games fulfilling our expectations. Now, I'm not saying that Vanguard is the next big thing in MMOs,(for the record, my money is on LoTR and Warhammer), but when it comes to character progression and growth I think they've got it right. Sure, I have no idea of what half of what those attributes are or why they matter...but I always get the sense that my character is progressing in something. Players seem to just care about levels and I think we're our own worse enemy on this one. When we give the focus to levels, well, thats what a developer will give depth, just height. Sure, we hit the level cap...what then? Exactly....what then? I don't know about you, but at level cap, my character better be progressing in something (besides grinding for new gear..thank you very much), or it's "bye-bye" to the subscription and onto something new.

I don't's something to think about. We all want that new MMO to stick with us in as many ways as possible, and in this post-WoW MMO world, character progression seems to be stagnant. I'm hoping that developers and players look at this aspect of the game in more detail as MMOs evolve into that elusive and non-existent "third-generation".

D out.

How do you know if LoTR is NOT for you

These are some good guidelines for those who are on the fence on this one. I've been up to level 20 in this game, so I think these are some good rules to go by to tell if this game is not for you:

1) You've done up to Chapter 11 of the Epic Chapter quests and your reaction is, "meh"
2) You think Admir deserved what he got.
3) You first meet Strider and you think, "He doesn't look like Viggo!"
4) You see Brandywine Bridge and you want to blow it up.
5) You've been to the Prancing Pony and think, "What a gay name for a bar".
6) You think this is just WoW in Middle Earth after level 2.
7) You've seen the Barrow Downs and the only thing that stands out to you is that old sock smell.
8) Your first reaction at character select is, "What?! No Gnomes!!"
9) You've been to the Shire and you can only think about how small the doors were and how cheap the beer is.
10) You think Old Man Willow is is just a grumpy old man and you're sure that the Scooby gang will put a stop to his evil plan soon.

D out.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

State of the Games I'm not as much feeling sick today as I am hung over from being sick. I'm taking Advil's like they were tic-tacs. Man, that was a nasty bug. I've never slept so much. I think out of yesterday's 24 hours, I must have slept 18 of them.

Anyway, now that I'm a bit more coherent, I wanted to give a little update on where things stand on my playlist. I know, its a light topic, but its about all I can muster mentally for now.


I've installed CoV onto my machine as part of my little experiment of going back to old stomping grounds. I was inspired to do this by Brent, who was thinking of getting into Matrix Online (probably out of drunken bet... /wink). We never seem to talk about CoV/CoH in the blogg-o-sphere/podcast world very much anymore...not sure why that is, so I thought I'd revisit that game just to see how its going.

So far it looks good, however; I'm getting that old "its all about combat" feeling back after only playing about 2-3 hours of it. That, my friends, is very sad. Not too sure how long this experiment will last if this feeling continues. Maybe the sun has set for CoV/CoH as far as I'm concerned. I don't know...after playing LoTR, WoW, EQ2 and Vanguard, this game is really playing shallow to me.

I will try my best to keep going on this one...


I logged into EQ2 today after about a 2 week hiatus due to Vanguard. I'm still wanting to get a max level character in this game. Most of the guild that I'm in hardly logs in there is very little motivation to getting into that game. I'm hoping this will change soon.

Lord of the Rings Online

I kind of promised myself that I would play less of this game while its in beta...but I can't. I pre-ordered it from my local EB store last week, but I'm going to have to cancel that pre-order today I think. They don't have any pre-order boxes...nor have they heard of the pre-order boxes for this title. I don't really trust them to have the pre-order boxes in on time for me to make the Open beta.

SIDENOTE: When did EB Games stop hiring gamers to sell games???

Anyway, I pre-ordered from Fry's today in the hopes of getting my Open beta access and Founder's goodies.

In the Beta, I have a level 12 Burglar...and I think that the Burglar class is what I'll stick with when the game launches.


The game is going ok...I guess. It definitely hasn't grabbed me as much as LoTR has, but there is something there, hence the reason why I keep logging in. The guy I usually play with hasn't been on for a while, so I haven't done that much with the game for the past 2-3 days or so. Still a level 11 Ranger. My goal here is to get to level 20...hopefully by that time I'll have lots to say about the game.

Thats it. Man...did I make any sense in this hang-over stupor of mine :)

D out.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A colouring book and icecream

...ohhhh boy. A flu bug hit me quite hard last night to an extent that I can barely type this stuff out. I've been sleeping pretty much the whole day.

Anyway, no big blog entries from me today, well, except for this one. Maybe tomorrow as there is lots of stuff going on.

D out

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Revisiting Old Stomping Grounds

So I just went to EB Games for my lunch break and I picked up a copy of CoV, for two reasons: 1) I haven't played CoV since beta and I think it needs another look, 2) I'm really liking what's coming up in Issue #9. Plus, it's a public service thing for you guys...thats right, I make these sacrifices so that you don't have to :)

I use to play CoH quite a bit...actually, it was my stop gap game before WoW. The memories that I had from that game are some of the best experiences I've had to date with an MMO. The thing that turned me off of CoH was that it was only about combat. There was no other sense of character progression besides combat....booooo. Now, with Issue #9 they're introducing a crafting game play element...or an Invention system. You basically collect "loot" from your adventures to create enhancements, costume pieces and other goodies. This intrigues me. So, with Issue 9 on its way its time to take a serious look at CoV/CoH once again.

Who knows, this may be podcast #3 material...but I'll definitely do a write up at the very least.

Oh yeah...and how cool is this:

"...but Darren", you say, "what about Vanguard?" Shush disembodied imaginary voice. I'm moving along in Vanguard. I've hit level 11 with my Ranger...I'm not saying a word beyond that. You'll have to wait until Podcast #2 for my full impressions of the game. I expect to have something out in a couple of weeks.

D out.

Six Pack Insanity

The heights to which my 6 year old is bringing the good 'ol game of bowling is truly humbling. Last night I started to play Vanguard while everyone was winding down for the night (more on this later). The Boo was downstairs with my wife playing bowling on the Wii. I was hearing the usual squeals of joy and excitement that come from a child her age...but then I heard, "Daaaaaddy, come here! Come here! You've got to see!". I came downstairs and she was literally beside herself giggling and jumping as I descended down the stairs. So I get down there and my wife just pointed at the TV...6 strikes in a row. My 6 year old was on the 8th frame of the game working on her 7th strike...she just had gotten a 6 pack.WHAT!?

I sat down for the rest of the game. On the 8th and 9th frame she got spares. On the tenth frame she got 3 strikes in a row. A the end of the game, she scored in the 240 range. Just to put this into perspective, my highest score is 211...which I got yesterday. Suffice to say, she was thrilled at her accomplishment.

She has announced that I'm going down hard tonight. No doubt I will. I just hope I can take my defeat with dignity.

D out.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Negative Side of LoTR

Brent has put up another excellent show up on Virgin Worlds....with a twist. One that kind of caught me by surprise. He really didn't take to Lord of the Rings Online...something I really thought he would enjoy.

Some of his points against:
  • Avatars are ok.
  • Game kinda feels "clunky".
  • Newbie experience feels empty and novice.
  • Game might not be newbie friendly after the instanced tutorial.
  • UI is from DDO, i.e.not a very good UI. Buttons too small.
  • Character windows are well done.
  • Combat comes down to button mashing. Something isn't bringing combat and special skills together.
  • No strategy in combat.
  • Graphics really didn't grab him. Organic feel, but doesn't know if its for him.
  • Music is good...but it would have been nice to get music from movies.
  • Character animations are awkward.
  • Play/combat experience feels like DDO.
  • Game runs well on his machine.
  • Game has a certain charm to it.
  • Some quests don't have clear instructions.
  • LoTR is where are the EXP is. Would like more EXP for grinding mobs.
  • Land seems kind of barren. Needs more mobs perhaps?
  • Blogs were to positive about this maybe?
  • LoTR is not like WoW.
  • No polish. Fun is absent.
  • If game didn't have an IP of Middle Earth, he wouldn't play it.
Thats a good sample. Brent, let me know if I misrepresented your views at all and I'll edit/delete/add etc.

That's quite a list. Not going to debate any of the above points because I respect Brent's opinions and this is how he really feels about the game. However, I really don't know what to say. I for one, have really taken to the game. I don't know why. Maybe its the IP. Maybe its because I'm sick of WoW...I don't know, but the game really grabbed me for some reason.

Brent did give me an "uh-ohhh" moment for a couple of seconds (...he secretly likes doing this to me...), regarding my reviews on the game. Was I too positive about the game? Looking back, I don't think so because the review is how I honestly feel. I do really think they've got a good solid game here,a nd for me thats important. If anything, its the future, i.e. first expansion, that will make or break this game. I wasn't really that critical of the game because nothing has really hit me that will make me not get this at launch. Graphics are excellent, I like the game play, I like the lore...sold.

Anyway, his view points will represent what others are experiencing with the game. So, its good to take a look at what he says when you try and figure out if this game is for you or not. With the lifting of the NDA, you're going to have the good, bad and ugly spread before for it's decision time.

Thanks Brent.

D out.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Warhammer Conference Call info

Very interesting Warhammer information over at MMOG nation.

Darren's prediction of the month: Warhammer will be delayed to 2008. Why? They are promising quite a bit and I think that pushing it out to 2008 will be the only way they can do it. I don't know...just a feeling I'm getting.

D out

Dang nabbit!! I've taken my Buda pills and am totally over the "Rules People"....for now. I'm currently developing a spray that will keep them out of MMOs, but a fully working product won't be ready for at least 12 years. It's sort of a mixture of Spam, Butter, and Girl Koodies. I'll keep you all posted.

I'm really hoping that you guys get the picture I posted yesterday. I'll give you the background. My wife came home with some Valentines presents for the girls. For The Boo she got a little bear holding a rose, for The Butt (yes....I call the youngest one "The Butt". Don't ask) she got this furry litte red purse. Now, Elmo is a big deal in our house. The girls absolutely love this guy and more importantly, listening to him doesn't send me into a crazy axe-wielding rampage that say, Barnie would put me in. Aaaanyway...I took one look at that furry little purse and told my wife, "Oh my gawd, they've made Elmo into a purse." Laughter ensued. Its just too bad that they didn't get to Barnie first...guess he runs faster than Elmo. I personally think Barney set Elmo up. The seedy underbelly of muppets is not pretty people.

So I was playing Vanguard last night and I did not have a very pleasant end to my evening. I created a Vulmane Rogue last week and started playing him more this week. I'm actually liking the Rogue in Vanguard. That's really no surprise to me since I usually always settle into a Rogue-like character in MMOs. Nearing the end of my evening, I had a very wierd warp-lag issue. I started being attacked by multiple invisible enemies and I died. Well...not right away. I had no health left but was still running around for about 4 minutes, then I died. I sighed and started running back for my corpse after being kicked from the server. No tombstone was to be found anywhere. I looked around for about 20 minutes...nothing. So I basically lost my quest items, my crafting items and clothing, my diplomacy items and clothing. Thank goodness most of my adventuring stuff was soulbound or I would have been screwed. I was being disconnected from the world server...I started seeing other people's characters at login. Weird stuff all around. I called it a night after about 15 minutes of trying to get back in. This is the one bad thing about corpse runs. If there are any technical issues at the time of death, questionable things start to happen. I for one hope that Sigil gets rid of corpse run soon. They're just a pain in the ass and really add nothing to the game play.

One positive note though. Vanguard is running A LOT better after yesterday's least for me anyway. Grats to Sigil for working so hard on the performance issues. Now, if they can only work on the character models. I know that this is cosmetic, but the lack of fluid motion is really distracting from the experience. Looking like a have a stick shoved up my ass is making me feel awkward... and every time I jump I look like a gay little schoolgirl. I'm supposed to be a ferocious wolf-man, damnit.

D out

Thursday, February 15, 2007

They finally got 'em was bound to happen eventually. I'm not implying anything, I'll just see if everyone's imagination is as sick as mine.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Disadvantage of Purity

Since the release of the NDA, there has been quite a bit of talk regarding LoTR Online not catching "the feel" of Tolkien, or that the game was not staying true to lore by having magic. Rubbish...just pure rubbish.

I have addressed this before, but this type of narrow minded approach to how a game should be designed just drives me bonkers. Turbine has run into this before and very recently with DDO. DDO is as close to the PnP experience as you can get guys who think its not, go design something better and report back when you're done. They stayed very pure to the license and look what happened. The game is really good, but falls short on content and it lacks a persistent world in which to travel. Everything is an instanced experience in which you can enjoy with a handful of friends and yet, nobody is really taking to it. Shame on us. When I last played D&D, waaaaay back in the 80's, our Dungeon Master brought us through dungeons...surprise!! On our trek to the dungeons, we'd have a random encounter or two, but the main point of us getting together was the dungeon itself. Turbine comes along, gives that pure D&D experience and you'd think that would be a hit...after all, they stayed pure to that D&D "feel". But get the "well, its not pure enough", or the "what? no persistent world? /logoff /cancel account". Amazing.

Now we have LoTR Online and we have the same personality type...the "Rules People" as I like to call them. They cringe if we, heaven forbid, stray from the pure path that Tolkien set out for us. Well, Turbine gave you guys the pure implementation in DDO and you bit their heads off. So I'm really not surprised that they're giving the "Rules people" the finger this time...I would. They are doing their best to get the IP right and I saw it with each patch in the Beta.

So lets imagine for a second that we do a pure translation from book to wiggle room...just book->game. Would the game be fun? Noooooo. Would it attract a lot of gamers to play it? Nooooo. Would non-gamers try it? Noooooo. We'd be sitting around the Shire as a Hobbit doing nothing but dancing and drinking. As a human I'd be in Bree cleaning up horse shit. As an Elf, I'd either be reading a book or crying (Elves cry quite a bit). I don't even want to think about what I'd do as a Dwarf. This would be the case because the whole series is based of on the struggles of only a handful of people...everyone else is either going about their daily lives or is being steamrolled by current events.

Magic in LoTR Online?!! OMG! Its the seventh sign...we're all going to die. Two little words:...who...cares. Why on earth would it make one smidgen of difference whether a character in a LoTR GAME can shoot fire balls? the grand scheme of things...does it really matter? How are you and the spirit of Tolkien somehow vexed if a player character has this ability? Do all of the LoTR novels spontaneously combust when a player does this? Does this somehow make baby Jesus cry is some way? You an MMO GAME, there is this little thing called "fun" and for some reason most players have "fun" when shooting fireballs from their fingertips. When I play LoTR Online, I'm not thinking of the purity of Tolkien lore...I'm thinking, "hey, this game is fun. I think I'll stick around play some more". That's the feeling Turbine is shooting for from each player.

Can the game be better? Yes. Are there issues with its current state, i.e crafting, classes? Yes. Should I be concerned about the direction Turbine will take the IP. God Yes! But you purists out there...and I know that there are only 12 of you, need to either a) get out of gaming and stick to books, or b) get on board and enjoy the gaming medium for what its meant to be, i.e. fun, engaging and entertaining.

D out.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ep1 - tcsgamer Podcast - LoTR Beta Review

Oh gawd what have I done....

OK, so I wanted to give this a try with basically an audio companion to the LoTR Beta review. It's my first shot at recording, editing and talking to be gentle.

You can find it here.

I'm open to suggestions, hints, cheats and constructive criticisms...although I think it turned out quite well.

D out.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Lord of the Rings Online Beta Impressions

So the NDA is lifted and now you'll start hearing all of the reviews/previews/opinions of what this game is really all about. I've been in the beta for about 1 or 2 months now and in that time I got a character to is level keep everything in perspective while you read this. I haven't played much since the last character wipe about 3 weeks ago and for a reason...I don't want to spoil this game any more than I already have.

Again...I'm not going to give LoTR Online any score what so ever. Scores for MMOs are useless IMHO as they are truly an evolving and living piece of software. Regardless, this review is a wrap up of my experiences with the beta.

So, without further we go:

My System

AMD 64 3500+ Processor
nVidia 7900 GT Video card
1 Gb RAM
...yadda...yadda...and yet again...yadda

First Impression - Being a Noob in Middle Earth

The first thing you're going to do with LoTR is create a character, and you're left with some decisions to make. You have a choice of a few races: Elf, Dwarf, Man and Hobbit. Of course you can choose male and female of each race. No...we won't be getting into the whole Dwarf female debate here. As I usually refuse to create any characters under 4 feet tall, I created a Man (sorry ladies...I guess political correctness has not hit middle earth yet. Burn the bra I say!!). You're also left with some classes to choose: Champion, Captain, Minstrel, Lore Master, Hunter, Guardian and Burglar. There is lots of coverage of what each of those classes are, so I'm not going to go into the specifics here....suffice to say, I picked a Capitan to begin with.

Once you enter the world you are brought into your own instance to follow the first story line of your adventure. No, I'm not going to give the story away, but this instance serves as a nice tutorial. You do meet your first Nazgul here, so score one geek point. The story line itself gets huge points from me for immersion factor. After the instanced introduction, you're off and running.

For a noob experience, this was one of the best I've experienced hands down. I don't think I've been as drawn into a beginning story line as I was for this one. In most MMOs, I find myself clicking through most quests stories just to get to the meat of the game....not with LoTR. I think everyone will truly enjoy their first hour in LoTR.


Fantastic...gorgeous...flawless...beautiful...awe inspiring. Any questions??

Ok...obviously I need to go into more detail on this one. When you step out of the first town you'll be hit in the face with how sharp and colorful the world is. If a master painter where to visit your home and paint a beautiful landscape on your monitor, LoTR Online is what it would look like. I would dare say that LoTR Online's graphics are a kissing cousin of Oblivion's. read correctly. They aren't of the same caliber, for sure, but man are they ever close...AND, they don't kill my computer to get there ( /emote Darren looks in Sigil's direction).

I've got to tell a quick story regarding the graphics that will bring it all home to you. There is a logging camp between Bree and Buckland...can't recall the name off hand. Anyway to the left, if you're facing Buckland, there is a road that goes to the Old Forest. To the right...wayyyyy up of a hill you see a very large old ruin structure. It must be about 1 or 2 miles away. I had to stop everything I was doing and go see the ruins. The whole game experience is like that. You'll see something out in the distance that just begs you to come and explore it. LoTR Online brought back the explorer in me...and what a refreshing feeling that is. To want to go places because they attract you to go there, not because you were led to go there by a quest. Of course, I won't tell you what I I'll leave it up to you to go take a look see.

The graphics very well on my machine. Of course, crowded towns like Bree were a slide show, but that has been improved with each patch and as they've rolled out more servers. Great job all around in the graphics department. I have screenies at the end of this review...take a look.


Funny, the music from the movies is not there...I was kinda hoping they would be. What they do have there for music gives you a good sense of where you are. All of it has a very "Middle Earth" feel to it.

Another story regarding the sound. There are these undead things roaming around a zone called the Barrows. These things have a kind of fear debuff (I believe) and what they do to put this debuf on you is let out a huge, bloodcurdling roar. I mean, when this first happened I actually felt that my character was going to die...the sound got to me that much.


Crafting isn't really that complicated and follows a similar formula as WoW does. You have a recipe, you gather materials, you click a button and you wait for the progress bar to tell you that you're done. Thats it. There are varying tiers and/or levels within each profession and as you increase in tiers, you get to craft better stuff. There is no counter-reaction system like you find in EQ2 or Vanguard...which is kind of a let down. I was kinda hoping that LoTR would take a different take on crafting than the other MMOs on the market. There may be some twist to my impression in later levels, I really don't know.

One thing I did notice about crafting was that I can actually make items that I can actually use. I picked a weapon smith the first time around and I was surprised to find that I was making swords that were relevant to my level...nice.

Monster Play

I only got to play this one evening when it was first there may have been some changes since I last visited this implementation of PvP. Its good actually and I really enjoyed myself. For any characters level 10 or above, they can be transformed into a level 40 Monster of their choosing to go and fight other PCs level 40 and above. These Monsters grow in level and unlock various skills as they go. As a monster, there are quests to do, just like in the PvE areas but there are also conflict points for you to fight over. The only PvP I did was getting killed on the way back out of the PvP zone....the rest of the time I was grouped with other Monster players taking down some dragons and such.


Questing is very much like know kill this, get that, etc. One difference're in Middle Earth doing these things. The quests to kill this and get that while the whole "Ring thing" is going on gives you a sense of belonging to the world. There are main story line quests that are divided into Chapters. These quests are either directly or indirectly related to the adventures of Frodo and the Ring.


I've been giving my impressions on atmosphere of LoTR Online in the other I think you understand where I stand on this subject by know. To some it up...they nailed it. I really think they nailed it. Sure, there are the Tolkien purists out there who are screaming to the wind about how they didn't nail it. Wake up call....the average MMO player did not read the LoTR books 25 times. They just want to be immersed in a world in which they are the hero, and Turbine did that....end of story. If you liked the movies and enjoyed the book or relate to the characters at all, you'll like this game.

The Future of LoTR

This year, and in 2008 there are a boat load of MMOs coming out into the market. Will LoTR stand out? In a word, yes. Turbine has THE fantasy IP in the palm of their hands and the ball is clearly in their court on how they proceed. Right now, they have got a solid foundation on which to build. Honestly, the game could have launched when I got invited to beta...thats how stable it was in January. What will make or break this title is their first expansion. Where will they take the IP? How will they expand IP? Will they make this WoW in Middle Earth or will they beat their own path and give us something new? Time will tell...but for now, I really like what they've done.

Big question. Will I drop WoW for this? Yes...I think I will. With BC, WoW really brought nothing new to the table in terms of evolving the world. The idea of exploring this world gives me goose bumps. To see Minas Tirith, or the Mines of Moria, or Mordor, or Helms Deep.... /shiver. I for one want in on this from the first day and will be pre-ordering as soon as I can.

Thats it. Hope you enjoyed the read. Below are some screenshots for you to enjoy.

D out

D out

Mystery Beta no longer a mystery

Take a look.

So now that the NDA been lifted, yes, Lord of the Rings Online has been my mystery beta...and now I can talk about it. I've been taking screen shots like a mad man of while playing this game and gathering my impressions. So, expect a Beta Review in some form or another here by the end of the week.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Are we really killing?

So, the lovely and talented Lauren over at Mystic Worlds has started a noob experiment of her own with one of her friends. She's introducing her to WoW and then maybe later to EQ2 I believe. I love these kinds of things. Anything that gets people into gaming is alright with me. Anyway, her friend wrote about her experiences with her first day over at her site...go take a look.

She brings up a point about killing in the game....she goes on to say this:

The graphics aren't nearly as bad as I thought they would be in this respect. My concern was that I was going to see the levels of macabre and unsettlingly realistic gore that I've seen in other games. WOW isn't anywhere near as graphic in it's depiction of death, so I was able to enjoy the playing more than I thought. I still am not totally comfortable with the idea of killing my way to the top of a game, especially when I know there are millions of other people out to kill ME to get to where they want to go.

I can't help but wonder why, when you think of the most popular games across all platforms, nearly all come down to killing and causing harm to as many people as possible, in the most graphic terms available. Just gives me something to think about. Anyway, I'm in Rome now, and shall do as the Romans. So if I see you, and you're trying to kill me, know that me and my shadow bolt are gonna bring the PAIN!

Its a valid concern to be sure...and it this is the very sentiment that we see politicians and opportunistic lawyers taking advantage of today. Its really a valid question I guess: Are we really killing in an MMO?

I'm obviously going to take the 'No' side on this. I'm an Electrical Engineer by training, so I work with digital ones and zeros everyday. Thats how I see the virtual worlds that I adventure in. When I "kill" a wolf, a deer, a goblin what I'm really doing is deleting a visual representation of an instanced object in some line of code. This object does not meet any of the scientific definitions of life....not even close. So when its health parameter reaches "dies", only to be respawned 2 minutes later to be "killed" by another player. Is this really killing? No...if it were, I'd have the SWAT team at my door every time I formated my hard drive. Now, obviously some people don't see things this way. If is walks and talks like a wolf, then it is a wolf....always, virtual or not.

What about player characters? Surely, when I do PvP and I "kill" someone else's character, this must condone violence of some sort? doesn't. We have lots of games today in which the main goal is to destroy or kill another players representation in the game. Chess comes to mind. Checkers, Sorry, Battleship. We don't get massive protests just because you sunk my battleship. All those poor sailors....oh the humanity!!

Now we see other games with lots of blood in them and very graphic actions of violence either against NPCs as well as other players....some of them are over the top, but they...are...not...real. Yes, there are some ages which these aren't appropriate and I leave it to parents to make that decision. We have lots of real life stuff such as hockey, football, rugby, soccer... all real games that can have blood and violence in them.

She does bring up very valid point...why do we need to "kill" in games in order to climb the ladder? This is a core game play element in MMOs, but why? I think it comes from our own lore and history. Everything in history points to the fact that heroes are born out of a life and death struggle between good and evil. In this struggle the hero wins by killing the bad guy/creature...or looses, only to be slain himself. Heroes are born out of the fire of combat and conflict. Sure...there are a few non-combat heroes out there; volunteers that help a kid learn in school, a man who helps an old lady change a tire, a person who donates $100 to charity. Granted....but history does not remember those people, as great as they are. History remembers the battle hero. Lets face it, the majority of us will never be in those historical situations in our lives. These games give people a chance to write a heroic history for themselves...and all they have to do is delete one's and zeros to do it.

D out.

Friday, February 09, 2007

SOE Podcast #12 and more Vanguard.

SOE posdcast #12 is up for your listening pleasure. Although I listen to every SOE podcast, I usually don't mention it here...but I had to for this one. My gawd, its funny as hell. They have some featured podcasters on this episode, including Brent (VirginWorlds), Rot and Val (EQ2Daily), and Yivvits and Mr.Bubble (SWG). I've never really heard Yivvits and Mr.Bubble before...but after listening to their interview, I'll be doing some catching up. Those two had me in work no

There is a great State of the Game article by Ryan Elam, the Director of Technology over at Sigil. Its honest and informal...I like him already. In it, he addresses the reason why there are patching so much, priorities for bug fixes, and client performance issues....all of which are on every Vanguard player's mind right now. These are all issues which come from releasing the product a tad early...they know it and they are addressing it. The fact that they are reflecting these issues back to the community shows me that they are on the ball. Premature release or not, which was a big no-no, I think they are on the right track for success. It's communication like this that makes loyal customers....keep it up guys.

D out.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The role of da lewt: Part 2

So I'm wrapped my head around more of this loot stuff...dear God, I spelled "loot" WRONG! First off, I did stick my head into WoW two nights ago to help my wife with getting into Uldamon. Why in God's name would Blizzard put an enchanting trainer in an instance...I'll never know. While there, I chatted up with one of my good online friends regarding his experiences in WoW so far. He is honestly having a really good time playing. He's hit level 70, is gearing up and keying up as he goes on to hit bigger and bigger challenges. He is the "stop to smell the roses" type of player in my experience and, like me, loot is the byproduct of playing WoW for him...its not the sole purpose of playing. The whole conversation kinda made me question my conclusions on WoW. Is it about the enjoyment of the game or is it only about the loot? I'm not a fundamentalist by any stretch of the imagination, so if my impressions are wrong...I gotta know. So, examination of the role of loot continues.

I heard a very apt description of what WoW has turned "arms race". Not only are people racing to get to 70, but they are doing so solely for the purpose of getting new equipment that is a) better than what they got now, and more importantly, b) better than the other guy's. Now, there are lots of people like my friend who are not like that. They look at the sights...they go "holy cow" when they see those eerie steps in Blood Furnace, however; I propose that they are the minority. Most of the "holy cows" are the "holy cow, look a this new sword"...and it drives me crazy. we all know how I feel about what WoW has turned into. What about EQ2...what has it turned into since in came into being in 2004? One thought is that EQ2 has transformed itself into a better game since 2004. When I am playing EQ2, my thoughts are not on the new bow or sword that I get, but the environment that I'm playing in. I love the story arcs, the quests. And the corner of my mind, that's a better game. Loot in EQ2 is kinda like music in a never really notice it, but it always enhances the experience. Bob left a very good comment regarding his take on this whole thing:

I think I know why you find EQ2 so much more relaxed than WoW. It's that EQ2 offers many forms of alternate progression. You mentioned tradeskills as one of them. Some folks spend months obsessing over their homes. Some people really monitor their quest counts. Some people are fiends for completing collections. The list goes on and one.

...and he's correct. In EQ2 there are so many more things to do than to just obsess over loot. Of course, I'm sure there are people that do, but I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that the percentage is less than what you find in WoW. I see this as being the case for Vanguard as well. You have questing, crafting, diplomacy, housing, shipbuilding etc etc etc. Now, WoW may change this dynamic and introduce a bit more depth to their gameplay with the introduction of player housing. This would shift some of the focus away from loot onto something else. A lot more is needed, but its a start. One way or the other, like in EQ2, WoW has got to give players more to strive for.

In part 1, I said that I didn't see as much "prep work" in EQ2 or Eve before major expansions. Shortee was the first to comment on this and left this note regarding my perception:

Just as an aside, technically in EQ2 people did prep for the expansion. They just didn't prep in quite the same way since there wasn't a level cap increase. But believe me when I say the price of low level goods (for both fae twinks and transmuting) went sky high. There was a lot of extra harvesting going on as well for the tinkering gear up.

Thats something I didn't think about. There was the introduction of Tinkering in EoF, so yeah, I can see how people would horde up mats. Also, the twinking issue would come up for the new Fae race as well. What I did see in WoW was a huge PvP push to gear up for BC. I'm not sure that people in EQ2 where putting any extra effort to gear up for EoF...and that was the point I was trying to get to. Since WoW is gear centric, it would make sense that this would be a priority for most level 60s...EQ2, not so much.

So, I'm going to keep thinking about this topic as I head into Vanguard for review. I only got to play for about an hour last night, due to a patch...surprise. So far, its very much in the category of EQ2 when it comes to focus of game play.

D out.

New site to look at

There is a new site everyone should take a look at. Head on over to Cuppytalk...she has a great write-up of Vanguard, post launch which I think is pretty fair and accurate. As I mentioned to her, this review might have been the tipping point for me getting the game and starting a review of my own...which I did yesterday...damnit, I'm such an MMO whore :)

So here's the plan. I've asked a friend to come into Vanguard with me to play once a week to about level 20. Yeah, this will take a while to do...but thats the point given the state Vanguard is in right now. At that point, I may...stress a podcast review on Vanguard with my thoughts, impressions and such. Now, there are already lots of podcasts out there that do great coverage of general MMOs as well as Vanguard so I don't plan on making a regular podcast here. So, I may write up a review or I may do a review your bets.

If anyone wants to join in...not necessarily for the review, but to group up in Vangurad...let me know. My character's name is Belmirus on the Hilsbury server. He's a Ranger. This may or may not be my main going forward, I don't know. I still want to try the Nec, Bard, Druid and Sorcerer.

[Edit: A commenter just brought up a good point...the race of my Ranger character is Threstran Human]

D out.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Getting in on the ground floor

Now, everything being said regarding the state of Vanguard at its release, we have to give kudos to Sigil for continually updating the game. The daily updates, the recent interviews, all show the right level of commitment to the game and its community. Yes, I completely disagree with the decision to ship the should have been given another 4-6 months. It was clearly a funding issue and why Sigil was not given the chance to finish the game...we'll never know.

But now, the game is out. Those of us who had reservations over the launch of the game have a decision to make. Should we get into Vanguard now, or wait 6-8 months? There is much to be said about getting into an MMO early, despite any issues or problems that fall out of launch. EQ2 is a perfect example. Looking back, I really wish I had stuck with the game given the type of game it has become now. EQ2 is just now hitting its stride. With the EoF expansion, it has become the game it really should have been in 2004.

Two things are tempting me to get this game and give it a go:

1) The MOGArmy and TelonCast Podcasts. The MOGArmy guys are very selective on where they game with MMOs. Although the type of MMOs they are ideally looking for will probably never come to be, they have taken to Vanguard...a fact which I find intriguing. TelonCast is the new Vanguard podcast and its very well done. Besides having a talking hand, it's interesting to see Michael's ideas and thoughts about Vanguard evolve from Beta 5 to launch. Listening to all of those podcasts gets me interested in the game a bit more.

2) I would really like to follow up on my Beta review. Regardless of what was reviewed in the beta, it was still just a beta. Given how fast and frequent they've been patching, it would not be completely fair to leave the review at a beta level. So yes, I've got to think about my journalistic integrity....ahem.....

So, maybe in a couple of months I'll pick up Vanguard and give it a try and report back here in the form of a full review. This is really a tentative plan due to my current enjoyment of EQ2. I usually don't have the patience to be a pioneer when an unfinished MMO comes out, but if history tells me anything, it may be worth hanging in there for this game.

...crossroads indeed.

D out.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Busting the Myth: No MMO is really ready to launch.

I've been hearing about this a lot lately regarding MMOs...especially in podcasts. In particular, I hear it when it comes to Vanguard. We all know that Vanguard was not ready for launch. Brad McQuaid himself even hinted at this in forum posts. Yet, I still hear people making excuses (yes, thats what they are) and dismissing the release of Vanguard by saying "Well its ok because no MMO is ever ready...blah blah blah". Now, don't get me wrong...Vanguard is NOT a bad game. In fact, we all need to watch this one very closely.

Vanguard, like every other piece of software had internal project, design and verification (or testing) milestones to meet during its course of development. This is just the way things work in software land. Date W is when design specs are to be done, Date X is when features are delivered to verification for testing, Date Y is Verification complete, Date Z is when we do regression feature testing and then we make a ship/no-ship call based on quality. What is quality and how do you measure it? Well, quality comes from good can't test quality into a product, no matter how many test cases you throw at a it. Regardless, most verification/testing/project groups will say that a product is ready to be shipped when the test failure rate is below 3% (for example...pick a low number) and there are no outstanding critical issues.

Now, relatively speaking, Vanguard was way below the curve for a launch. From all accounts, the launch itself was major issues. From all accounts though, the Vanguard team is still adding huge patches to the game post launch. I really haven't seen this much patch activity after the launch of an MMO before. Since Jan.30, they've had five big patches.

Maybe they're MMO is ever done. It's a live world thats contently evolving and changing over time. I think that's what I like most about MMOs. However, we're talking about two different things here. Let's not confuse the launch of an unfinished MMO with one that is finished and now needs to evolve. There is a big difference between saying "An MMO is not ready to ship..." and "An MMO is never ready...". One statement implies a quality standard...the other doesn't.

...any thoughts?

D out.

Monday, February 05, 2007

My kingdom for more arrows

First, I'd like to congratulate Lauren over at Mystic Worlds for her first podcast. It's a lot of work to do something like this on your free time. Go take a listen. Keep it up Lauren.

Second, yes, I do plan on doing a Part II for "The role of da lewt". Just need to get my thoughts organized regarding the other two MMOs that I want to touch on, EQ2 and Eve. Lets face it, the last one concentrated almost exclusively on WoW. Some of you have left some great comments on this article, each of which has got me thinking...thanks.

I hit Crushbone on the weekend with my Ranger and got him to level 28...and ohh my word what a good time was had by all. One downside of being a Ranger though...arrows. I went through sooo many arrows. I currently have a 12 slot quiver with each slot holding 99 arrows. Thats around 1200 arrows. I went through them all about half way through our adventure. I had to borrow another 12 stacks from our tank... and I think I ran out of those about 30 minutes before we called it a night. From the looks of it, SOE will be addressing this issue in GU32. Perfect.

The only other gripe I have with the Ranger is the arrow really needs to be worked on. Actually, now that I think of it, all animations that involve ranged attacks need to be worked on because they all seem to suffer from the same thing....but I'll just talk about arrows. First of all, the graphic for the arrow is too big for the bow...they just don't look right together. I think if they reduced the arrow's size by about 3/4, then it would be perfect. Second, and most important is the flight path of the arrow. The flightpath kinda reminds me of those plastic bow and arrow sets you get as a know, you have to aim really high in order to hit the target thats 8 feet away. I don't gravity stronger in the EQ2 world?? If you've ever fired a bow before, the trajectory is an arch but not to the exaggerated extent that you see it in EQ2. If they made the trajectory a bit more horizontal and reduced the arrow size, these changes would make shooting an arrow a bit more realistic. It would at least stop me from giggling every time I shoot an arrow.

Having a great time in EQ2, and to answer your question, I have no idea when I'll get back into WoW...soon though. I guess I'm just waiting for everyone to settle down a bit before I go back in there again. The general maturity of the EQ2 crowd is what I need at this here I will stay :)

One final thought of this post. There is some excellent coverage so far of the SOE summit that happened this past weekend. One of my favorites is this one. Its my favorite because a) its funny as hell, b) the guy meets two interesting people on the plane: Brent from Virgin Worlds and Kendricke from Warcry (who happens to also be my guild leader on Guk). I'm very excited to hear more coverage of this event.

D out.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Why the Wii will win the console wars

I know, I know....this is a MMO blog traditionally but stay with me because this has quite a bit to do with MMOs. Or rather, this has a lot to do with the current MMO trend.

First of all, take a look at this article. If you're too lazy to do that, one of the more interesting things that the article says is this:

"While Sony and Microsoft are targeting the same audience of hardcore gamers, Nintendo has made clear its intentions to appeal to a wider band of consumers, even those who might not traditionally play video games."

....sound familiar at all? Right, this is exactly Blizzard's strategy when it comes to the MMO space. Before WoW came along, most North American MMOs were seeing around 100-250 000 subscribers (give or take 50000). That was considered a successful MMO. Blizzard comes along and creates a game with a such a broad appeal that attracts those who usually don't play games (like my wife, her friend...and many others, you know who they are). They now have over 8 million subscribers.

Switch to Nintendo. Here is Microsoft and Sony creating graphical upgrade platforms in the form of the 360 and PS3. The controls are the same, the games are the same...they just look better than the last gen consoles. Apparently, this means that these consoles are for the "hard-core" audience...I have no idea why better graphics = "hard-core", but there it is. Nintendo comes along with their new console, but they change the way the user interfaces with the game with the Wii wireless remote. A motion sensing remote that mimics your movements on screen. Some say this is "gimmicky", that it won't last. Others say that the graphics will ultimately kill the Wii once people get over the remote., thanks for playing though. Numbers don't lie and so far, for both Blizzard and Nintendo, they have both hit home runs buy thinking outside the box. They have both figured out what the big boys couldn't. They've figured out how to make a gamer out of Mommy, out of Grandma and Grandpa and out of the Aunt who lives with her cats. They've grown the market in big ways and then moved in to take that growth by storm.

The current MMO trend is to make games more accessible to a larger demographic of current and potential players. Gone are the days of the "hard-core" MMO, and good luck to those companies who make one out of a misplaced sense of nostalgia. Blizzard's strategy and Nintendo's strategy are exactly the same...other gaming companies should take note of the results if they ever plan on getting out of Blizzard's shadow.

D out

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The role of da lewt: Part 1

As my self imposed hiatus from WoW continues, the reason for this becomes very clear. That the central premise for playing WoW turns me off, i.e. the quest for the "phat lewt"....arrrrg, typing that made me feel very dirty. You do quests for money, equipment and exp. You do instances to get faction and equipment. You get faction to get access to even more equipment. All of this so that you can tackle the tougher instances to guessed it, better equipment. But thats a very simplistic way of describing WoW, isn't it.

Lets be fair, most, if not all MMOs have this type of predictable pattern of progression....but WoW is the king for the hunt for better equipment. People spend hours and hours grinding the same instance for the chance for one piece of armor to drop. They spend hours upon hours of time to grind rep for that beautiful shiny dagger. They spent months in PvP to get HWL in order to get access to very nice gear. Now, for BC, players have the daunting task of attunement for the big instances at level 70 that will undoubtedly take quite a bit of time.

WoW plays on the very basic premise of risk/reward stimuli. They've perfected the science that drives our very basic need for happiness....and when I say "basic need" I really mean primal need. Going into an instance is very much like gambling. With every boss kill, there is a slight chance that the item you've coveted for months will drop. It's like placing a bet on Black 35...spin the wheel. When we get it, ohhh man it's the greatest thing in the we've won something that will change our lives forever. You link it to your guild, your friends and show your family that beautiful purple goodness. My precioussss. That one win then drives the next 2-3 months of grinding and/or raiding. Random chance and the possibility for a big loot payout drives the leet WoW player. I felt it in WoW too..we all have. Heck, I've even felt it in golf...why else would I play that stupid "sport".

What was one of the main complaints from WoW players when BC came out...? "Oh no, my equipment is now obsolete". What where players doing before BC hit...? "I've got to PvP/Grind/Prepare my equipment for the release of BC." WoW players are always trying to improve equipment. That is their goal, their purpose, their existence. I truly do think, that if Blizzard changed this paradigm, that WoW would easily loose 80% of their player base within 6 months. Don't think so? Well, would you play WoW if there were no purples or blues to get? Come on, be an honest Blizzard crack whore like the rest of us :)

Now, I've played a lot of MMOs, and never have I seen the dedication that some WoW players show for their loot. I don't see that kind of behavior in EQ2, Eve, Mystery Beta, Ryzom, CoH/CoV or any others that I've played. Why? They have loot to...don't they?
Think of this. What were Eve players doing before Revelations? What were EQ2 players doing before EoF? They were just playing the game like they always did. The only thing they "prepared" for were the predictable server downtimes after the launch. There were no extra plex runs done in Eve. There were no extra raids being done in EQ2. Players just continued to play their game until the expansion came out and then they hit the new content.

Now, is this a good thing? Is it good that the central premise of the biggest MMO in the history of gaming is the loot you get. I don't think so. WoW is a great game for many reasons. Easy to play, easy to level, easy to understand...but the central reason to keep playing and keep leveling is its weakest point in my humble opinion. WoW has got to introduce another way to make your character better than the current equipment based model they have now. Think of many more expansions can WoW have if getting better loot takes more time and effort to get? Will it get to the point where you have to spend 6 months killing/raiding/questing to get a piece of gear?

WoW is number one right now. I believe it deserves that position due to Blizzard's ongoing commitment to high quality products....but something has got to give. It really makes me wonder what Blizzard has cooking up to address this. This whole loot question has been in my head for quite a while, and although this article does purge my concerns, I can't help but feel excited to see Blizzard's next expansion for WoW. Will they shift away from the focus on equipment? Will they bring in hero classes as a separate way to improve your character? Will they address only the end game with more and more unreachable content for the average player?

D out.

Life's little questions

Why is it that the really "buffed" guys in the gym have shaved heads?

I started going to the gym about 3 weeks ago. Over the course of my time there I've noticed that every guy with biceps 20 inches and over have shaved heads. Even the "not-so-buffed-but-I'm-here-everyday" guys have shaved heads. If I start to really start to build muscle, does this mean I have to shave my head?