Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Lack of Freedom

To prove that even I can be wishy washy on the subject of PvE, I present a good counter point to my questing post yesterday. Thanks Cameron. lol

Cameron, over at Random Battle has an article up about the boring journey of questing and it brings up a lot of good points. Let me say, again, that I don't mind the gathering of quests from soulless quest givers, doing their required mundane little tasks and turning them back in for Xp and loot. This particular system, which all MMO's use, seems to be a pretty efficient way to level up characters over the course a game, but it is mind numbing at times I will admit.

Everquest, to some degree, let the players have more say or freedom in the way they leveled. Sure, there were quests, but you could just as easily decide to grind out mobs in different zones for the same amount you got from a quest. This grinding for mobs presented some problems There was more danger once you left your starting areas, now it's pretty well divided by level and you're lead by the nose to the next questing zone by, well, a quest. No random chance of running into a roaming giant in the zone or mobs you just have to avoid to get where you need to grind out mobs your level. No more freedom.

One of the reasons I don't completely hate the questing system in games is it allows for more easier solo play, but as Cameron says, "questing lays down rails and puts you on a specific path". Especially when you consider the quest guides and mods that help you find the most efficient way to level up through the questing system. Even in WAR there are little blood stains that dot your world map indicating where to retrieve certain items and kill mobs for quest completions.

But in WAR, I don't feel as disconnected as I have felt in other games because my true salvation is the background story that is being revealed through the questing process and the PvP which you get quests to do. But I will admit, it does lead you around on a choke chain at times, pointing you annoyingly in the direction they, the game designers want you to go. Not sure why? Maybe it's some kind of control freak thing. I do know that players want more control back in their hands. Leveling through RvR and PvP is a good start.

I think if you are designing "The Next Gen MMO", you have to find a way to make questing less obvious and give leveling freedom back to the players. I do know that removing quest givers from the game and blood stained maps would be a start.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The balance

Does WAR do a good job of balancing PvE and it's PvP? Is there enough PvE content to emerse the players in the War story that is taking place around them, or is that story lost in all the PvP action being done?

Would the game be better as a FPS game instead? Completely remove the back ground story of a War going on and just let people battle it out on control point maps. Would this work better?

Is the PvE aspect of the game helping to draw you more into the world that is Warhammer, or is it just a "means to an end" as Keen has suggested? Are we taking a journey into this new exciting virtual world or just hanging out in it while we wait for scenarios or keeps to be attacked?

I honestly don't know the answer. I have enjoyed questing in all the race zones so far, seeing all the sights, finding new PQ's to try out, and frankly, just taking my time through the world. My engineer, Oakstout, who is level 17, is currently adventuring in a chapter that is 2 levels lower than the chapter he should be in to level up properly. Why is that you ask? Because I'm trying not to rush anything and I want the world to be revealed to me slowly, not in a power leveling mad push towards the end.

But am I deluding myself into thinking there is actually a story behind all the questing? Is questing just something I do between Scenario groups and keep sieges? These are the questions I have a hard time answering.

I do know, that I'm having fun with lots of new people, who are also taking their time to experience a whole new virtual world. I don't see any need to rush.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Merger

Well, this week my WoW guild has been making preparations for the upcoming expansion. I've been listening to them plan the future of the guild on Ventrilo and playing WAR at the same time. I wish I could feel bad for doing that, but I can't. lol

The planning involves merging with another guild and starting up the raid machine. Yippie! I think the last raid I did was over 4 months ago, but since it was a very productive raid, my warrior got 10 epics in Kara, I've not been complaining much. Well, by complaining much, I limited my begging to do more raids to only 5 times a week, but the leadership was too busy doing battlegrounds and arenas. The answer I got for not raiding was, and I quote:
"PvP is cheaper than Raiding and when the expansion comes out all your epics will be obsolete the minute you start questing in the new zones, so why even bother till the expansion comes out."
A statement, even to this day I don't even understand. Hey, if you don't want to raid, great, more power to you, but you should at least help the rest of us, who want to do something, especially those of us that want to stay raid spec and not spend tons of money switching from Prot to DPS every other day. Sure raiding can be expensive, but that is why they invented dailies so you'll be able to make money to pay for that expense.

But I digress.

So they are going to merge with another guild. This will take place as soon as they come up with a name. I listened to a few last night while I was running scenarios in WAR, but nothing they said seemed to have the same ring as Casualties of WAR. lol Honestly, I think it's great that the guild is merging and we will be raiding again. The problem for me is the implementation of DKP, Dragon Kill Points.

I have a real life. If I'm dealing with that and unable to raid, I don't get points, therefore, I will be gimped because I lack the gear to do the bigger raids. I'm being assured that this won't be an issue and that the guild's main purpose will be to help everyone who wants to progress not just the elite few that have no life and can raid all the time. The other issue is my current love, WAR. How am I going to split my time between WoW and WAR when the guild really starts to raid again, especially when the expansion comes out? All problems I will have to figure out.

Course this will be a moot point in December. I'm hoping to get my shoulder fixed then, which means surgery causing my left arm to be completely immobile for 3 weeks or more. Bummer! I'll just have to learn to do everything with one hand. lol I will need to earn some DKP some how.

Other than that little bit of WoW news, I've been spending just about all my time in WAR spending lots of great time doing sewer runs and scenarios with my guild mates, who are just fantastic by the way. I do hop on WoW for the guild meetings and to do a little bit of farming. I still need an epic flying mount for my Prot Warrior, Oakstout.

I purchases Spore, played it for maybe two hours and then I shelved it. It just didn't appeal to me as much as SimCity or Rollercoaster Tycoon did. I might fire it up again in the coming weeks, but it might, I fear, stay shelved for a long time.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Slide Show

I am still enjoying WAR, but, as with all great things there is always an issue with some of the bad things.

Question for game developers?

So, you build a game which is going to have tons of players interacting with one another on a regular bases because your content is player driven. Now, add to this chaos all the spell effects and other animation that might take place, starting to get a mental picture of all this?

What happens? Major game lag.

So, if you know this is going to happen, because by happen stance this sort of thing has happened in EQ2 and WoW, which if your any kind of game developer working on an MMO, you have to have at least tried those games once, why don't you prepare for it?

It being the ridiculous amount of stuttering that a character goes through when moving from one over populated area to another?

I mean, if you know that you're game will have open RvR zones where say, teams of up to 40 vs 40 will be battling over the same small keep, why can't you make the graphical lag better so that systems which meet or exceed the games hardware requirements aren't getting a small slide show of the action? I left LOTRO because of the way the trees moved every time they got rendered as you approached them in the game and it actually drove me freakin crazy, now I have to deal with a stutter every time I play WAR?

Be prepared I say. It works for game developers and boy scouts. If it has happened before in other MMO games, like gold farming and video lag due to many players being in one area at the same time, why can't you have a plan ready to implement when the time arises? I mean, we crashed a zone when we started gathering our CoW forces to take a keep, how silly is that?

And you thought this was going to be a nausating recap of all the fun I've had in WAR? BAH!

Download video drivers they say. Adjust your in game video settings they preach. We'll I've done that and I have to say, it ain't me. So, I have done a few things that might make a difference. I've adjusted my in game Vram or Video Ram to a larger number and this seems to have helped, my video card has 512mb of memory so that should be ok for now. I have also purchased some 2 more gigs of memory from Newegg. Apparently, memory is really cheap these days and it should be arriving sometime next week, if the Gods premit. I've not had the best luck with Newegg in the past with shipping dates.

Well, that about it. I will give an update as soon as I can on any possible improvements. The issue isn't on my end, game developers must have known this was going to be an issue. It's like not knowing it will snow in Canada in the winter, that bears have claws or that baseball is really boring.

They just didn't seem prepared.

Someone please advance the slide.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Troll

WAR is here to stay. I have found the game to be a very stable, for me at least, and extremely fun during it's first week of launch. I enjoy the RvR aspect and the public quest system. Having several way fun ways of obtaining great gear, not just gear that works for PvP but for PvE as well, is fantastic.

So, from the statement above you can tell that I like the game, I'm having fun and it's something that I enjoy playing. Therefore, I have posted my feelings on the subject here.


Because that is what a blog is for, to post ideas and subjects that as an individual, I might or might not be interested in. There are several types of blogs, but this is a personal blog, one in which I will chat about what I find fun and interesting. Things I enjoy doing or not doing. I have a comment section so that people, who are are interested in what I have to say, can post their personal reactions to my various subjects, not to offer an invitation to devious Trolls.

WAR is the new thing. It is here to stay. There are a lot bloggers who are playing WAR and therefore, there will be a lot of them posting about their experiences on their personal blogs. They are also very passionate about the game, so there tends to be large walls of text devoted to it. This doesn't mean they want people to tell them how silly the game is, or how much of a noob they are for playing it. They really don't care if you don't like the game, because they do, so trying to convince them through continued abuse in their comment section will not garner any respect.

Now, if you have a legitimate grip about the game, then sure, you can provide evidence that might support your attempt to change their mind, but it probably won't work, because they are posting about how they feel and no commenter can really know how another person feels. But in the end the trick is not to harass. If you feel differently, you should just create your own personal blog and post your own feelings. What you want is to have the respect of others in the community, so attacking someone, personally, in a comment section or on your own blog is very bad manners.

Bloggers can deal with constructive criticism, but to argue with them on the subject of how they feel is like trying to hold back a hurricane with a sheet of paper. It's just plain crazy.

Monday, September 15, 2008

WAR Begins!

Tomorrow morning, I'll get to really start playing WAR. Tomorrow is the Pre-Order head start program offered by Mythic for those that did not have the cash to plunk down for the Collector's Edition, which started on Sunday.

To say that I enjoyed both the Preview Weekend and the Open Beta is an understatement. I tried to play a good range of different characters on both the Destruction and the Order side, but I'm still not certain what I plan to play tomorrow.

I will have to play a Dwarf for sure, but will that be my main? Not sure. Will I play an Ironbreaker, Engineer or Rune Priest? Still uncertain. I did play and enjoy the Engineer during the open beta, but not sure if I want to continue that at this time. I'm leaning towards an Ironbreaker, but I'll see how many of those the guild has before I decide to go that route. My purpose is to fill in where the guild is lacking. That bit of strategy has worked for me in WoW so I'm hoping to try it again in WAR. It forces me to play classes that I would not normally chose for myself, but in the end, just complete love playing.

Well, I have lots of screen shots from the open beta that I want to share, but I've not had time to rummage through them to make the presentable, but I'll try to do that this week.

Well, hope to see you in the game tomorrow.


Friday, September 12, 2008

The Random Encounter

I've been playing a little Final Fantasy 3 on the DS. For those not familiar with the old Final Fantasy games, a lot of the it involves running around in an area and basically waiting for randomly generated mobs to attack you. The mobs that pop up to attack are specific to the area your traveling in, but you the encounter could happen every 2 feet or every 20, it's completely random as to when you'll have to fight again.

This got me thinking. There is no random encounters in MMO's. Most games will have a specific area where the skeletons, bears, wolves or treants spawn, so you know where to go to kill what you need to complete quest X. Some people might argue that there are a few random elite mobs that will spawn, but even they have a specific area where they hang out, so all you have to do is wait for them to spawn. The randomness is even dumbed down more because most MMO's will show you, using highlighted areas on a map or arrows, where you can complete the quest. Basically, developers are leading you around by the nose.

Wouldn't it be nice if the game just rolled a 20 sided dice behind a cardboard DM screen and what ever the game rolled is what would pop up in front of you as you strolled thru the woods or as you creep around a dungeon? Sure, it would be mobs that would inhabit that area, but it would be completely random and players would have to think on their feet. No posting of video strats or long blogs about how to kill your way to the end boss.

But in the mean time, we have world RvR in WAR. It's pretty random. You don't know how big of a contingent you will encounter, what kind of careers or even what levels they will be untill you start to engage them. Skill will also have a lot to do with success since most can get gear that is pretty evenly matched through renown levels.

So until devs find a way to pull out the old DM Screens and 20 sided dice, we'll have to just enjoy the random encounters in WAR.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Buzz or Hype?

Recently I found an article written by one of my wife's favorite author, Stephen King. He often writes Op-ed pieces for Entertainment Weekly and this one tackled the problem of Buzz Vs. Hype.

Now in the article, he defines both these terms in a way that turned on a light for me.
"Buzz is not hype and hype is not buzz. Hype is paid for: full-page print ads, luxe websites, logos on the sides of buses, billboards on Sunset Boulevard, carpet-bomb TV campaigns. Buzz is free. Hype is often unreliable (Ang Lee's well-advertised but ultimately atrocious rendering of The Incredible Hulk, for instance). Buzz, on the other hand, is almost always reliable. No one knows why, any more than anyone knows how dogs can sense company's coming even when none is expected. But we can say certain things."
- Stephen King
This finally put a few things into perspective for me concerning the MMO blog community.

Blogging about a game to the point of nausea is not hype, it's basically buzz. Hype is when they run ads that support the game, post links to developer's sites, or constantly shove the game's press releases down every one's throats. But if someone is just blogging about their enthusiasm or joy for a game that's coming out, even if it borders on the annoying, it's not hype, it's just good clean buzz.

So, when I've been shouting about how I hate hype, what I've really been meaning to say is that I really hate buzz, but in fact, the truth is, I like buzz. It's buzz that has gotten me fired up to the point where I am searching web sites, listen to every podcast, watching any movie that has any information about WAR. I'm not saying I have it bad to the point of nauseating people that I know, but I'm sure some of my WoW friends, whom I have convinced to get the WAR pre-order so they can try the game out during the open beta on the 7th of Sepember, will be glad when the game starts and I can finally start shutting up. By then, with luck, I will have either convinced them to come on board the WAR train or not. Either way, I will be happy to finally be playing WAR.

Monday, September 1, 2008

I'm bored!

Recently, I finally found a really good guild. Before the summer, they were a very active raiding guild. True, we only raided Karazhan or on occasion Gruul's Lair, but still it was something to do. Now, the leadership has decided that since it's so close to the expansion, they don't want to organize a heavy raiding schedule because of the money sink it tends to be. You see, if WOTLK is anything like TBC, after finishing the first quest players will get a reward item that is better than what can be won from a Black Temple raid.

So the leadership spends all their time doing Battlegrounds and Arenas. Which is just as crazy, but even though that gear will have to be replaced it doesn't cost any repair money to achieve, just time. Which since we aren't doing anything organized, they have plenty of.

What is there for the rest of us to do? Well, some try to organize a few Karazhan raids, do dailies or just farm materials to sell on the AH. The Karazhan raids are hard to form when there is no one from upper management supporting their cause and dailies are just as boring as farming at times or dangerous depending on how the Horde are feeling that day.

What else is there for me to do? Why level another alt, of course. Which by now, after working on so many, it's hard to find anything fresh and exciting about running over the same old ground doing the same old quests for the 5 or 6th time.

This all results in me finally saying, I'm bored with WoW, but I'm not the only one stuck in this hole. There are lots of people, who are still going through the motions of WoW only because there isn't a decent replacement. Many set their sights on AoC being the one, but with their buggy launch and steep system requirements, it just couldn't get nor keep the people that jumped over from WoW. This will not be an issue with WAR. As many have already stated, WAR is very close in structure to WoW. The history and story are different, but for the most part both have a scalable graphics engine, PvE content that works well and a great PvP mechanic. The only issue is that WAR does all of those things just a bit better.

True, a lot of fan's of WAR don't like the comparison to WoW, but I think it will do nothing but convince the die hard WoW players to give it a try. I recently heard WAR being described as WoW's sexy older sister that will do more stuff and give you a better time without boring you. That pretty much hits the nail on the head.

WAR will not be revolutionary, but it can be an evolutionary step up the MMO ladder. The idea of a presistant world always at war, with a story line, Public Quests, epic world PvP, living guild system and many innovative ideas. True, none of them are new to the MMO community, but they have been improved and isn't that what we all want? It will be the same but different, which can't be all bad.

Course, WoW plans to steal all the ideas that WAR has come up with so they can win your hearts back when their expansion is released. They are going to offer world PvP with siege weapons along with an achievement system that will give the player more abilities and possibly titles. Between level 70 and 80 you'll be able to participate in skirmishes that will keep everyone happy till they reach 80 and can do arenas again. I hope that's not the same as a scenario?

But that is just the way the guys at Blizzard roll. If you can't beat them fairly, you steal their ideas and make them your own. They've stolen from SoE so why not Mythic. Blizzard didn't do anything revolutionary when they brought out WoW. They took everyone elses ideas, simplified them, made the graphics simple so more machines could run it and added on PvP so the gankers would have something to do. If anything, WoW is a step backwards if you look at it in that light.

I'm not saying that easy is a bad thing. But, it gets old after a while. I've harped on SoE when they started charging for EQ2 adventure packs, but if Blizzard had been doing it, then people wouldn't be as bored as they are now waiting for an expansion pack to be released. They tried by releasing the Sunwell content, but I don't think it was enough. They need to release stuff every 3 to 6 months. I'm not saying it needs to be an expansion, but something that keeps the hardcore people from burning out so quickly. When people are thristy, you don't give them an cup of water you turn on the fire hose.

I just think people are ready to try something and I think WAR will be it. AoC might have filled the void, but the system requirements were too steep and the launch was plagued with bugs and missing items originally promised to be in game. Funcom implimented that game poorly and I don't think it will survive another two years. They've been leaking members since launch like the Titantic. They probably only have half of what they had at launch and once WAR hits the streets they will probably lose many many more.

WAR was pretty stable during the Preview weekend. Were there bugs? Sure, but it was a beta. But the devs have been keeping the gaming community up to date on their fixes and I'm confident that the game will perform even better at launch. Does it look a little like WoW? Yes, but that's one for the plus column. Players familar with Wow will be able to jump right in and pretty much understand how everything works. The game does have some complicated features like Moral attacks, Tactical slots, Influence and the Renown system, but that just adds more flavor to the game. It can't all be as easy as WoW, otherwise we would get bored really quick if all we were playing was a true WoW clone.

The Tome of Knowledge was the only aspect of WAR that I was excited about but was disappointed when I saw it in action. In my opinion, it gives out too many titles and achievements for mundane stuff. I think titles and achievements should be harder to get, not passed out like candy on Halloween. But it's a living, breathing database and in the end that will be it's most important feature.

Basically, players are bored with WoW or more accurately this player is bored. Blizzard is trying to hype things up a bit with WOTLK leaks and trailers, but nothing is really appealing to me enough to stay away from WAR. My suspicion is that Blizzard will deliver yet another lack luster expansion. Sure it will keep players busy for a while, till the first ones make it to 80, then it will be the same grind for rep and end game raiding loot. Sure, there is a new heroic class, that will be played by everyone to death, no pun intended.

Now, I'm not saying that I won't be playing WOTLK. I just think most of my gaming time will be spent in WAR, as will a lot of bored WoW gamers. Will they got back to WoW after a month or so? I'm not completely sure. If they can find the fun that WAR has to provide, I think they will be hard pressed to go back to the same old grind that is WoW.