Saturday, July 31, 2010

How much is too much?

Since the announcement in Korea, I had been looking forward to Blizzard's launch of StarCraft 2. I was even lucky enough to participate, if only for a short period of time in the multiplayer Beta. I had been sensing the hyped buzz and knew the time was approaching for the product release. Now I hadn't bothered to preorder or even check out what the suggested retail price of the game was, so, when I picked up last weekend's Sunday newspaper, I was shocked to discover that SC2 would not only be out this week, but would carry the hefty price tag of $60.00!!

Now, I'm not a cheap person and as recent as last month I purchased a console game with a similar price tag and didn't think twice about it. This time, I paused. I'm not sure if it was shock or just being confused. When did PC games move up in price? One of the great reasoning behind PC gaming staying relevant in this age of console gaming was the lower cost of games. Affordability was what appealed to me. Apparently, thanks to the money grubbing whores at Blizzard, not anymore. I can't be shelling out $60.00 every time I want to play a new game. My general philosphy when it comes to console games is to wait a few months, or in some cases less and pick the game up either used or low down cheap. Course, with PC games they don't come used nor do you see any significant price drop until a year after the release, especially on a game that sells millions as I'm sure SC2 will do its first week alone.

I've not been living under a rock mind you. I know that recent game releases like Modern Warfare 2 and Battlefield Bad Company 2 for the PC had started to inch up in price to equal their console versions, but some where in my psyche I thought Blizzard was the one of those rare companies that wanted to support the PC gaming industry. To help it survive under the current flood of consoles. Course, if your heart is set on playing StarCraft 2 the only way you can play is on a PC. There will be no console version to the best of my knowledge and the same will go for Diablo 3. Blizzard just has no shame. We are the god of all PC gaming. We own the most popular MMO in history with over 10 million users. We can do what we want. If people want our product they have to pay our price.

Here is the added issue that others are upset about. "StarCraft 2: The Wings of Liberty" is only 1/3 of the complete single player story. Blizzard will be releasing in the not so far future, 2 more games that cover the Zerg and the Protoss sides. This doesn't bother me since it has been explained on the intertubes that this release includes well over 20 or so missions. The original game only came with 30 or so and included missions for all three races. All the races are available for online play so if mulitplayer competition is your thang, then you are good to go with "Wings of Liberty" and don't need the other "Expansions" to unlock races. There is no Lan support, so the days of playing with friends at giant lan parties is pretty much over unless there is an internet connection to accommodate your crew. But for my part I would only play online through there Battlenet service, so even that change from the original doesn't bother me.

I'm not sure if its Blizzard that is being the source of all evil or if its Activision. Either way, they pretty much have the fans by the short hairs as my mom use to say. I can choose not to stick it to the man and missing out on what reviewers are saying is one of the best RTS game in years or join the masses of zombie Blizzard fanboys and buy StarCraft 2.

I will leave it to the readers. Should I protest the increase in price by waiting till it comes down or should I just hitch my wagon up and drink from the Blizzard kool aid?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Captain of My own ship!

After reading a post by Scott over at Pumping Irony about his current endeavors in Star Trek Online, I decided to give the game a little spin and take it out of a nice test play. Currently Cryptic Studios, the developers that brought us City of Heroes and Champions, also known as City of Heroes 2 or more of the same City of Heroes, has an unlimited demo that runs you through an equal amount of ground missions and Starship missions in Federation controlled space. It gives you enough of a taste to want more, even if the demo doesn't really explain anything about how the game mechanics actually work. Sure you can meander through the game world effectively enough to figure out how to fire your weapon, command your away team and even shoot down enemy Starship's in space, watching them explode with enough satisfying fiery grandeur to make you pine for your DVD copy of Wrath of Kahn.

The part about Star Trek Online that really rocks is the skill points, how to train and maintain your bridge officers and how to equip your ship effectively, so you don't explode in the middle of deep dark space. Learning how to control, fire weapons and manage your energy resources on your ship is part of the key to having a successful experience in STO. And let me tell you, there isn't anything that makes that experience better than having someone thats been there explain it to you. Lucky for me, I found out I actually know a lot of fellow bloggers and tweeters who play STO and they have been great at helping me understand that you just can't spam the fire button, you also need to be facing your target properly at the right arc and angle so your phasers and photons will actually fire and hit the enemy ship. This isn't WoW, nothing is certain when it comes to STO.

One of the first diplomatic missions is in fact pretty hard if you don't read and follow along properly. Oh did I mention that you can fail at a quest, even a collection quest? Which is very refreshing for a change. I like easy don't get me wrong but every now and then the brain needs a challenge or it will dry up and rot. I think that STO is just the perfect answer to the non- WoW question.

After giving the demo a once through, I decided to pony up a few bucks, $40 to be exact and get myself the retail game and a 60 day game card. My Engineer, Lt. Ira J. Cook is now rank 6 and I'm having a blast, no pun intended. I made him human because I often play the non-human in fantasy style games that I figured if I was going to be in space, be something different in space. Slowly, but surely, I have learned a few things about skill and how to apply the points.

Skill points basically get split into a few different camps. Some improve you character while on the ground, others when you piloting your starship and still others help with the overall of command. I have moments of frustration especially when I hit a brick wall on a mission or not understanding why my starship can't or won't fire all its weapons. When that happens, I know that someone in the Fleet (STO's version of a Guild!) will be more than happy to assist me with either advise or shoot over in their Galaxy class star ship and help kick some Klingon ass.

The game is a lot of fun and for $40.00 and 3 months, I should be able to figure out if its a game I want to keep on playing. To date, there hasn't been any retail expansion, however, they have released 2 patches that provide free content, which they are calling episodes. Sure the game has bugs like a few broken quests or graphical glitches and serious rubberbanding lag but I don't worry about it because I get boldly go, out to some sector of space and attack enemy ships with phasers pulsing and torpedoes exploding. Still lots to learn like how different starship weapons work, how their energy consumption effects other systems and what kind of bridge officers do you take for specific missions versus others.

I have to say, being a pretty big fan of the series, I'm very happy with the nostalgia this game is giving me and the fantasy of actually being in the same class of hero as Picard and Kirk.

End Line--

Never Fear

I am still here. Sorry but work has been a bit brutal and I've been doing lots of stuff that I want to talk about when I get the time. Hopefully this weekend I'll have something to post and some of it involves a new (new to me!) MMO that I've started playing.

Here is a hint, I have Talyn, Longasc and Tipa to blame for this new addition.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Netflix: Video Nectar from the Gods

My newly discovered obsession with Doctor Who has forced me to take a drastic measure, I decided to try out Netflix. Really it was the only sane thing to do. I could, either buy season 2 - 4, (I hate season 1; please see previous post for clarification) rent all of them, both a tax on my limited income or just get Netflix and watch them when I could, which appears to be just about every waking hour since I signed up for Netflix.

Now my wife had to be convinced that spending an extra $10.00 a month on movies since we already get HBO was worth it. Well actually, I did it and then told her I was doing it after the fact. However, since getting Netflix, she has seen the light, I mean the advantage, of having it, mostly because they have a lot of really old really bad horror movies available for disc delivery or instant watching and those are the things she loves the most.

The best feature has to be the instant viewing of movies and television shows. It is a fact that they have more movies for home disc delievery, but there is a modest amount of shows that you can watch instantly on your PC, Wii, PS3 or Xbox 360, which is great because I have all of them. The only rub is that because they signed an exclusive with Microsoft, the Wii and PS3 require a disc to run their movie software, which isn't much of a hassle since they will send you the disc free when you sign up.

If you watch a lot of movies or have missed a lot of television shows that you'd have to go out and rent the discs anyway, then spending $10.00 a month is a pretty good deal. I also managed to stream 2 movies from different viewers without much signal lose at all. This way, I can watch Doctor Who on the computer while my wife watches Jekyl on the Wii.

I would recommend this service to anyone who travels and has a laptop or just loves to stay at home on a rainy day and watch movies.

Friday, July 9, 2010

I'd hit that!

The newest result of my alt-o-holic crazy has been leveling my shadow priest, Gwinaveer. Over the course of a few weekends, I was able to level her up through the Outland areas and she is now muddling around in Northrend. I will say that my recommendation for leveling between 60 and 70 is battlegrounds and heirloom gear. Alterac Valley is fantastic for experience. I managed just about 7k xp on every major NPC kill not to mention the xp acquired from honor kills. I know a lot of people will tell you doing random dungeons is the way to go, and that does help, but I managed to go up 4 levels in one weekend of battleground fun and that was without rested XP.

After managing to reach 70, I decided to pick up a cheap flying mount and see what Northrend had for me. Well, I soon discovered that a normal flying mount isn't the way to see Northrend. The pace is excruciatingly slow. I decided after a few days of trying to fly around in slow motion that I really needed to get my epic flying skill. I'm sure I wouldn't have wanted to push forward with this expensive endeavor if I already didn't have several 80's with epic flying and dragon mounts.

I decided that taking one of my 80's around to do daily's for gold just wasn't something I wanted to do. I just seemed like to much work. I'm sure people will disagree and recommend a plethora of quests that are not only interesting but will also give my extra gold for completing them, but I just wasn't interested in questing. So, I dusted off my 80 Tankadin and proceeded to farm ore in Ice Crown. I cleared out my bags, to make room and proceeded to map all the nods. My luck was just unbelievable. I set out on a Saturday early afternoon and by the end of 2hours of mining had over 2 stacks of titanium and about 12 stacks of saronite ore, not to mention all the eternals that you get as bonus items from mining. Now, I'm doing this on a toon that's really not seen any action in over a year. He has about a 5.4k gearscore which isn't too shabby, but I wear no PvP gear when I farm and I prefer to stay in my protection spec which makes me almost invulnerable to most mobs I might encounter while farming ore.

I bring all that up because the real fun, the truly exciting time I have been having is that I've been crushing a lot of horde while mining. Now other than the bit of leveling I have done with my shadow priest, I'm more of a casual pvper. I don't look for a fight and I usually try to go for the fast easy kills. For some reason, the horde ore farmers on my server aren't geared for pvp, nor do they even put up a fight and I have been consistatly kicking their asses. I suspect that a large majority are bots, because they don't put up much of a fight, nor do they even try to defend themselves. I have had several try to run away, but a quick hammer usually stops that from happening. They also seem to be desperate for the ore, because while I'm actually mining it they jump down and try to do the same, without even trying to do damage to me. They probably think that people on my server are scared of horde and that I would run away by they mere presents, but they quickly learn that is not the case. Fighting them is very close to shooting fish in a barrel with a grenade launcher. I've been mining for two plus weeks and in all that time, I've had about 2o confrontations, I've only died once and that was more or less a tie...(protection warriors are just as nasty as protection paladins, thank gawd for ardent defender. lol) I also tend to see the same horde players over and over, so I'm positive they must be bots of some sort. On occassions, like the protection warrior mentioned above, I have had to actually work at staying alive, but thats maybe less than 1% of the encounters.

The good news is that I gathered and sold enough ore to acquire the money for my epic flying also known as the Artisan Riding skill and purchase a Swift Gryphon. It makes getting around Northrend so much easier. I also used a bit of that money to advance my tailoring and enchanting, which are probably some of the more expensive trade skills to level up. I still run around collecting ore with my Paladin in the hopes of doing more battles with the bots of World of Warcraft. I'm pretty certain they are bots because if I was getting the thrashed around by a Paladin over and over again, I'd go hunt for ore elsewhere. I'm not a person to scare easily but I know that you can only beat you head against the wall for so long before you need to look for a new wall.

I believe that a lot of my recent plethoria of pvp victories and the abundance of good ore to sell is due in large part to a lot of people taking a break from the game. When I reached 80 with my first toon, you couldn't walk around Ice Crown without getting jumped by a horde. Recently, the Alliance has even managed to win a few Wintergrasps, back to back in one week, which must mean the horde have gone on vacation for a while. Oh, I'm sure when Cataclysm hits, we'll see an increase in Horde kicking the crap out of Alliance, but for now, the break is very nice.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I hate you Gamestop!

So almost 2 weeks ago, I decided to put some money down on a new Xbox 360 pre order through Gamestop. The lady told me that I could expect my new Xbox no later than July 9th, however, she informed me that they get shipments every week and that I would probably be getting mine before July 9th.

So, after a week, I called them up and asked what the status was on my pre order. Apparently, the day I put MY money down on the new Xbox was the last day they were taking pre orders and my pre order was one of the last ones to they would be filling. Now, I sure as I was handing over my cash the lady behind the counter new this, but failed to inform me that I would be one of the last to be getting my pre order filled. Because if I had known, I would have held on to my cash and used it to purchase the new Xbox at Target or Best Buy, which in the last two weeks I've seen tons of. (Sorry I know ending a sentence on a preposition is bad, but Gamestop made me do it!)

Now I wait. The bad part is that I'm heading out of town for the rest of the week and I'm sure that my shipment will arrive, they will call me and tell me I have till the end of the day to pick it up and when I don't they will end up selling it out from under me. Oh, I have informed them that I was headed out of town, that I still wanted the unit and they graciously wrote my name down on a piece of paper, but I'm sure that when I show up next Monday, which will be after July 9th, they won't have a unit for me. Shame on me for being a trusting soul. Yes, I could have my wife pick it up, but I also want to trade in my old unit and getting that worked out with the little woman ain't going to be smooth as glass, so its just better for me to handle it assuming they even have a unit for me on Monday and they will let me trade my old one in.

I hate you Gamestop!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Doctor is back!

Back in 2005, I was pretty excited when BBC America and Scifi channel announced they would be broadcasting the BBC reboot of the Doctor Who series. I only slightly remember seeing a few episodes with Tom Baker back in the day in my younger days on PBS. Nothing that I could remember specifically, but I'd heard great things the original series from other friends and bloggers and since it was a reboot, I thought why not get in on the ground floor.

I soon discovered that I liked the concept of a rebooted Doctor Who. The only problem was that I did not like the actor, Christopher Eccleston, in that role. Maybe he didn't have the right humor or he seemed a bit too serious at times, but I just wasn't about to give up another year of my viewing time to a show whose main character didn't interest me. I was aware that they had replaced him, but I was so disappointed in what they had tried to do with Mr. Eccleston that I had not reason to invest my time with David Tennant.

Well, I have to say, that was a huge mistake.

Recently, I'd had the pleasure of watching a bit of Doctor Who on BBC America, actually they had a marathon of sorts during the recent July 4th weekend. They showed a few hours of Doctor Who. The marathon episodes spanned the course of several seasons, eventually ending with an episode from the latest season with Matt Smith as the Doctor. I have to say that I regret not giving Mr. Tennant a chance to impress me, because after viewing 3 of his episodes during July 4th, I was saying to myself, this is the Doctor. He was funny, strange, whimsical and at times a complete angry pain in the ass, but not so's you noticed. I truly think that he was the Doctor they had envisioned when they set out to reboot the series. That being said, I think that Matt Smith is an excellent replacement. His acting paired with Steven Moffat's writing, he created my other favorite British shows, Couplings, is just awesome. The Doctor's helper is Karen Gillan, who is funny, very smart, brave and a bit more flirtatious than other Doctor companions, which is something new I think for someone in that role. Course, I've only seen the first 3 episodes from season 5, 2 of which I had to download straight away from iTunes after viewing the marathon.

I have gone Doctor Who crazy. At lunch today I decided to hit Best Buy up for a few more episodes from the David Tennant stack, including the one where he changes into Matt Smith, which I've not seen yet. I also decided to sign up for Netflix so I could stream all the earlier seasons, with the exception of season 1 which I will just write off as a bad experience all around. I'm sure that others will disagree, but I'm just happy to have rediscovered Doctor Who. I look forward to what the rest of season 5 will provide and hope that season 6 will be just as great.

I just wanted to spread the word that if you've never given Doctor Who a shot, check out the episode "Blink". If you don't get hooked by watching that one, you never will.