Archive for October, 2008

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Political Entry #1

October 28, 2008

So are all game blogs taking a leave of focus to diverge into political blogging?  Because today’s been a heap of “Hur?” as I’ve made my rounds.  I guess I should start drumming for the TRUE underdog, the REAL candidate for change, the RADICAL maverick, the lipstick KING: Syp.  Nevermind that I’m not 35, on any ballot, interested in politics, or affiliated with either of the two major parties (which, let’s be honest here, are BOTH borked beyond belief and need nerfs all around).  Syp!  The progressive candidate!  My platform will be XP boosts for all!  Also, a time machine in the garage of every American.  Because if we’re not giving our children the opportunity to kill Hitler as a baby, then what are we leaving as our legacy?

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Witching Night! Witching Night!

October 28, 2008

So today we got a few more details about Warhammer Online’s first “live event” (you’ve been playing the dead events, I guess), Witching Night.  You can read about it here and here, but for the Cliff Notes version, here’s the salient details:

  • Witching Night will come with Game Update 1.04
  • It will last from Wednesday (that’s tomorrow!) Oct 29 through Sunday, November 2 — five days total.
  • There will be four new PQs, one for each tier (Chrace, Troll Country, Black Fire Pass and Caledor).
  • The PQs will be located in the middle of the RvR lakes and will reset much slower than normal PQs.
  • You can kill ghosts in the game world for cool loot.
  • Same with witches and their nasty cauldrons, which will be situated around the game world.
  • There are four unique face masks to attain, one through PQ influence (presumably the RvR PQs) and three from random drops.
  • Other loot includes cloaks, trinkets, potions and a new title.

There’s a few things to deduce — like the craftsy Sherlock Holmes that I am — from these features.  The first is that all of the Witching Night events will take place in the regular game world, which should draw people out of instances and scenarios.  The second is that the RvR PQs should prove to be an interesting incentive to get people into those areas and engage in a little BO or keep taking between the PQ resets.  Finally, it seems that no matter what rank you are, you can participate in pretty much all of this, which is very applause-worthy.

Five days.  Will that be enough time?  Syp wants a mask, so it better be!

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A Four-Letter Word: Sets

October 28, 2008

With last week’s Grab Bag #3 highlighting Warhammer Online’s myriad of gear sets, Mythic’s opened a huge window into WAR’s city siege end game. Basically, there’s going to be several end-game sets, each of which you have to obtain (or at least have a few of the pieces) to survive and contribute to the various stages of city siege and capture. Snafzg expressed some fretful hand-wringing over the news, but I’ll back him up by adding this: I hate armor sets.

Hate.

Hate.

Hate them.

Syp no like.

The concept of gear sets are almost intriguing: a suit of armor that has a uniform (and unique) look, as well as offering the player increasing bonuses depending on the number of pieces he or she or it has obtained. We as humans like collecting — and here’s sponsored in-game collecting of a meaningful, useful resource. What’s not to love?

Yet I loathe them, ever since delving into the end game of vanilla WoW in 2005. Up to that point, finding and equipping armor was a joyous, ever-changing experience. I felt more unique in my gear loadout in comparison to others, and I often carried around various types of extra armor that I could equip to boost certain abilities or stats if needed. Yet once you hit the end-game wall… BOOM. The choices for gear are whittled down from a huge field of thousands into a meager handful of sets. Sets that require an incredible investment of time and skill and energy to attain. Sets that you MUST collect to progress in content. Sets that, once you have them, makes you look like EVERYBODY ELSE. Sets that, once you start collecting them, offer nothing in terms of future surprises, just a grueling inevitability.  Sets even devolve the sexiness of gear into the most dry, technical terms possible; instead of crowing about finding the “Death-Gloves of Keizer Soze”, we just burp “Hey I got my T4 hands” to guildies. And it’s hard to fight that pull, because the whole design of armor sets is that you’ll feel inadequate compared to others and unprepared compared to the content if you decide not to pursue them.

Armor sets are one of those MMO staples that I wish would’ve died stillborn in the mind of whoever thought them up first, and barring that, that some courageous developer would come forward and say, “You know what? We’re not doing them. They’re grindy, restrictive and cater to old school hardcore insanity. Enough is enough.” But I guess that day is not here.

Armor sets in WAR worry me greatly. When I hit 40, I want to be able to contribute to city capture or defense in a meaningful way whether I have blues or purples or whatever. I don’t want a raid leader to bark out, “Okay, whoever doesn’t have four pieces of Sovereign on them, bail out of the group now. The rest of us are going on to kill the king.”

Of course, gear in WAR has surprisingly been at the bottom of my excitement meter for a good long while now. I get a blue from maxing out a PQ influence bar? Eh, it’s cool but usually not itemized right or will be replaced in a couple levels by a green. Maybe when I get to the end game I’ll find the armor sets a lot more attractive and hopefully not as restrictive for content as it looks from this Grab Bag. I don’t want the end game of WAR to be a sign that measures e-peen height and goes “If you are not THIS decked out, you cannot to on this ride.” That might just be a dealbreaker for me.

A couple things might sway me over from extreme grumpiness.  The first is if Mythic instituted a quick gear-swapping template, where you could switch different suits of armor on the fly (because, hey, isn’t that why they’re putting in so many different sets of armor, for various situations?).  The second is if gear sets would offer more bonuses than just stat bumps — what if, once you’ve collected all six pieces or whatever, you would unlock a special skill that could be usable only if you wore that set?  It’s sorta been done before, pretty inconsistently tho, yet that would be a way to continue to gain skills after 40.

(By the way, I’m just a mite bit concerned that FEMALE dwarf characters look like they’re going to be saddled with helmets that have a simulated MOUSTACHE. Just sayin’.)

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50 Small Attractions of WAR

October 28, 2008

Because sometimes the smallest detail can overwhelm the hardest heart.

  1. You don’t have to run around getting “flight points” to use the flight master.
  2. You can fly to your capital city at rank 1.
  3. Arrows on the circle around your character that point you to your group members.
  4. City Buff — whenever your city ranks up, you get a hefty bump to your xp, influence, renown and money.
  5. You can resize and move the UI anywhere you’d like it to be on the screen.
  6. There’s a separate bag for quest items — no more sorting through full bags to find them!
  7. Your characters swear and mutter when hurt.
  8. Using siege engines to blow away bad guys from across the playing field.
  9. Trophies — because we like frivolous fluff!
  10. Being able to queue up for scenarios from anywhere in the world.
  11. Getting xp AND renown AND loot in world/scenario PvP.
  12. The thrill of watching the PQ loot roll.
  13. Mythic devs actually talk to the players.
  14. Mirrored classes — so you don’t have to fret too much about choosing the “wrong” faction in terms of careers.
  15. Hoverboards! Er… Magus discs!
  16. Guild recall scrolls for a quick port to your capital city (once your guild hits 17, that is).
  17. There’s actually combat in capital cities — dungeons, PQs, even Skaven! — instead of just another vendor/quest hub.
  18. Explodey barrels in Altdorf.
  19. Bragging rights from the Tome — impress your friends with how often you’ve died!
  20. /special
  21. Secrets littered across the world, waiting to be discovered.
  22. PvP that matters. PvP that’s at the core of the game.
  23. Renown ranks that give you a feeling of progression even after you’ve hit rank 40.
  24. Being able to torch houses. Lots of houses. Yay!
  25. Taking a ride on a Greenskin catapult.
  26. Queuing up for scenarios from anywhere in the world.
  27. Right-clicking on your character to hear them crack jokes and say quirky phrases.
  28. Dual-targeting (one foe, one friendly)!
  29. Being able to play in a scenario at rank 1.
  30. An evil faction that is actually, y’know, evil — not just “misunderstood”.
  31. Having scores of titles to pick from.
  32. Large buildings that make you go “Oh wow…”, like the beautifully-designed keeps.
  33. Raining down boiling oil on an enemy force at your gates.
  34. Actually caring about your guild leveling and your city leveling or being attacked.
  35. Riding gyrocopters and dinosaurs!
  36. Nurglings: disgusting but cute.
  37. Snotlings: cute but disgusting.
  38. Standards: immersive, cool-looking and useful.
  39. Things that “age” with levels: War Lions, Magus’ discs, Marauder’s mutations.
  40. Character collision during PvP.
  41. Beer that heals you (props to my Engineer buds!).
  42. Spinning your character around on the character selection screen makes them dizzy.
  43. Not being forced into just one type of gameplay to level, but having several.
  44. Lots of ugly and deformed (scars) facial options.
  45. Knockbacks. Admit it — they’re fun.
  46. Healers that have more options than just heal-heal-heal… they can fight, too.
  47. Dyes, dyes, dyes.
  48. A more mature in-game community (cross fingers).
  49. Awesome ambient sounds, especially for creepy places.
  50. You can play alongside the legendary Syp! And probably die as I do!

P.S. – Two of these are the same!  That’s a secret game for you to play!  Yeah, I meant it that way!  Really!

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The Face of a Gold Spammer

October 27, 2008

I’ve noticed, upon starting alts in the newbie zones, that sometimes you find a guy at the new player spawn point who’s doing something like this:

Obviously, it’s not a roleplayer who’s just really into numbers, but some sort of scripted / macro / bot program running. I thought, briefly, that it might be a Mythic employee who’s paid to stand there and count out loud all the new players who were created that day. But that’s crazy talk. I know. Crazy.

Nah, it’s Mr. Gold Spammer himself, as evidenced by his next action:

Aww. I can’t hit /rg fast enough. But since they’re a dying breed, it’s sort of special to encounter one in the wild like this. Why doesn’t Warhammer have a /slapyouupsidethehead command again?

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You Can’t Always Get What You Want

October 27, 2008

As we in the Warhammer world await our very own Halloween treat, the folks over in WoW have been thrust into the throes of a full-fledged zombie invasion.  It is, in a word, ducky.  You get “infected” by a number of sources and can eventually turn into a zombie, attacking pretty much anyone in the game — your own side, the other side, NPCs, etc.  It’s basically turned the landscape into a giant open world free-for-all blender of violence, with zombies at the gooey core.

Now, as the founding member of the Zombie Appreciation Club, I have to applaud any game that goes, “Hey, you know what we need in here?  More recently-revived corpses!” and then goes to town with it.  For a game that’s as static as WoW, I would’ve imagined that the players would be thrilled to experience such a wide-ranging, radical world event.  It’s the sort of thing I crave for in every game.

And while some players are having a blast, I’m just floored with how many whiny babies are out there posting left and right about how this has “ruined” the game and they’re just going to sit on the floor with their arms crossed until Blizzard turns the zombie switch to “off” and they can go back to the routine, predictable grind.

Because, really, that’s what players seem to like: routine and predictable.  As a self-proclaimed carebear PvE lover of the highest order, I understand this feeling.  I love knowing that I have mastered certain PvE content and can trump it every time.  I enjoy not being rushed in combat, but having time to think things through and experiment.  I like measurable goals and neat, orderly bars of achievement.  And yet, I need the other side too, that unpredictable, chaotic, messy, fly by the seat of your pants thrilling ride.  That’s the adventure.  So I try to be flexible and shift between the mindsets of enjoying both PvE and PvP for what they are.

But I certainly don’t start stamping my feet on the ground and bellowing at the stars that game devs are trying to ruin my day by throwing a limited world event that takes my safe, orderly world and dumps it on its head.  Frankly, I’m laughing at idiots who are whining about this, because you can hear the fear and frustration in their voices at having to deal with a shifting world full of uncertainty.  A world where it’s all a battlefield.  A world that is, a bit, in the spirit of WAR’s “War is everywhere” maxim.

When I was in City of Heroes this summer, there were a couple weeks where the Rikti would “invade” certain zones by flying huge dropships through the area and beaming down scores of baddies for us to handle.  As with the zombie invasion in WoW, some of the players just HATED this intrusion into their game world.  It was too random and messy for them to deal with.  Hey, I died numerous times trying to cross these danger zones, but I never complained.  It was different, out of the ordinary, and I appreciate and applaud stuff like that when devs take the time to put it in.

I don’t know what WoW’s whiners (not saying that they’re ALL whiners, after all, quite a few are definitely having a ball with this event) hope to accomplish with their pedantic tantrums, but I assume that it’s in hope that Blizzard will never, ever want to do another world event that causes a single hair of predictability to shift out of place.

Mythic?  I’m never going to complain if you guys decide to upend the world.  Heck, I’m ready for it, and I’ll grab a seat in the front row.  Can’t wait to see what the live events team pumps out.

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Turnons and Turnoffs

October 27, 2008

Last week I asked you guys to participate in a rather lengthy and unwieldy poll concerning what were your favorite features in Warhammer Online thus far, and the results are quite interesting to read through. We opened the poll so that you could vote for as many features as you liked — all, one, none, whatever — instead of forcing you to choose. While this isn’t a scientific or balanced study, I think the results serve to highlight some of WAR’s perceived strengths and weaknesses:

  1. Public Quests – 317 votes
  2. Open World RvR – 310
  3. Tome of Knowledge – 264
  4. Scenarios – 247
  5. Living Guilds / Guild Tools – 190
  6. Unique Career Mechanics – 185
  7. Wide Variety of Careers – 176
  8. Dyes – 175
  9. Collision Detection – 163
  10. Morale Abilities – 148
  11. Tactics – 146
  12. Lore – 144
  13. City Siege & Capture – 132
  14. Trophies – 131
  15. World Environment – 117
  16. User Interface – 108
  17. Siege Engines – 95
  18. Heraldry / Standards – 93
  19. Living Cities – 89
  20. Mastery Paths – 84
  21. Gear – 84
  22. Quests – 74
  23. Kill Collectors – 53
  24. Dungeons – 40
  25. Lairs – 29
  26. Crafting / Gathering – 20
  27. Mail Auction House – 12

The upper echelon of the voting range reads like the back of the Warhammer box in terms of highlighted features.  Public Quests dominated the number 1 spot, which have proven to be a big hit with players of all types, from hardcore RvR to carebear PvE.  In the number 2 spot is open world RvR, a vote which probably would make the Mythic team happy to hear — that even as we have been gravitating toward scenarios (#4) for ease of access and overall speed of leveling, the players really do want meaningful PvP in a larger context.  The Tome of Knowledge (#3) and the Living Guild system (#5) round out the top five, both endearing themselves to many players across the board.

Players appreciated the wide variety of careers present (#7), which will soon be bumped up to 22 total, as well as the distinctive mechanics of each career (#6).  I think a lot of people are still trying to figure out how best to utilize Morales (#10) and Tactics (#11), but that’s one of those things that comes with time.

When you look at the bottom of the poll, the dregs if you will, the cracks in the system become a little clearer.  Crafting, gathering, the mail system and the auction house were dead last, showing us a very rickety basis for an in-game economy.  Other PvE staples — dungeons, lairs and quests — were also found floundering down in the depths here.  Just from looking at this list, it tells me that while WAR is making great strides with new features and an intense RvR focus, the PvE content needs to be shored up and in a big way.

Thanks to all who participated!

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Dual-Wielding MMOs

October 26, 2008

And yes, that title is mostly so I can post a sweet John Woo picture. Two guns! One dude! Many bullets!

In the middle of the recent WoW Dev-vs-WAR Dev fracas (that is, actually, the first time I’ve ever written that word in my life), Mark Jacobs said to Games Industry, “One of the things about MMOs is that people play multiple games… people may play WoW and they’ll play WAR and maybe even a third game at the same time.”

This struck not just a few people as odd. The MMO genre is unique in that it’s designed for a “monogameous player” (as Tobold put it), because profits largely stem from ongoing subscription fees. MMO companies don’t sit down at their weekly meetings and go, “Let’s make a game that people only want to play three hours of a week and be satisfied that they’re getting their money’s worth and exploring all the content.” No, MMO companies pay contractors such as drug dealers and the makers of Little Debbie snack cakes to come in and spill all they know about getting people addicted so that they never want to give it up — and never want to go elsewhere for their supply.

MMOs reinforce single-game loyalty with features such as guilds (you don’t want to leave your buddies, now do you?), rewards that favor sizable time investment (raids, city capture, grinds) and even so-called veteran programs (where you get free goodies based on how long you’ve been subscribed). The longer you play a game, the deeper your “roots” become, and the more you invest in your characters — time investments that even game-weary players are reluctant to relinquish (which makes it difficult to move on to a new title). Players are also conscious — or so I’d like to think — of the price tag of each month’s play. Getting 60 hours of good gameplay a month for $15 seems like a pretty good deal, especially when compared to paying $50 for a single-player game that nets you 20 hours of gameplay. Yet throw another subscription in the mix with the same available play time, and suddenly you’re paying $30 a month for the same 60 hours. Not as good of a deal.

So is it realistic or silly or downright nuts to assume that players will dual-wield MMOs as easy as splitting their time between any other hobbies? My instinct, born of experience, is to say no… but a no with a “perhaps” attached. I guess it depends what demographics and types of players you’re looking at. Mark’s in the game industry, and from talks I’ve had with devs, they absolutely delight in playing games all over the place (and have no problem dual- or triple-wielding MMOs). Your average high school or college student or unemployed/work from home guy with time and money to burn? No problem. Why not enjoy the company of a few games? Some of the MMO bloggers you read are downright proud of how many titles they tackle simultaneously, which sort of puts me in a state of awe and fear when I read their articles. For the rest of us, it’s a stickier proposition, but not impossible… just tougher.

There are quite a few upshots to being subscribed to multiple titles at once. As Mark was alluding to, it means you don’t have to choose between vanilla and chocolate — you can have both. You do have choice every night — get a little burned out with one title, and immediately switch to another. You can feel the smug sense of satisfaction that you’ve risen above petty pedestrian fanboy struggles to appreciate the wide palette of gaming discovery that lies on the horizon.

Some MMO companies, like Sony, even actively encourage multiple-MMO subscriptions… so long as they’re all to the titles under their roof, as with their Station Pass. In a year or two, if EA decides to go this route and offer a simultaneous subscription to UO/WAR/SWTOR for one price, you can bet your sweet booty that I won’t be alone in sampling this product.

Personally, I’ve always had a difficult time dividing my attention between more than one MMO. I like being loyal to a title (sometimes resulting in fanboyism), I enjoy hanging with my guildies regularly, I feel like I get a good deal for my dollar, and I’m not pulled between titles on a given night — or burdened with guilt that I’m not getting things done in Game A when I’m partying down in Game B. I think it requires a more casual attitude toward these games to be able to flip between them, and yet ironically demands more of a hardcore gamer attitude that you’d WANT to play more than one.

That said, I’ve dual-wielded MMOs in the past and probably will again in the future. There’s no shame in it, and I’m devoted to sticking with WAR for a good long while, even if I double-dip into Champions Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic (huzzah!) or even (gasp) World of Warcraft. Maybe the fact that I’m less hardcore about my gaming time than I used to be has matured me into a player that’s satisfied with not being the best, the first or the coolest, but just a guy who likes to adventure wherever the gaming is good.

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Beer!

October 23, 2008

I write this to you all from a shadowy hotel in the middle of Nowhere, Indiana… and it may be my last post ever.  At least until Monday.  Sometimes you just gotta get away from home for a mini-vacation, and my wife (Code Name: Preggers) and I are heading off to a weekend family retreat with my parents, brothers and assorted nephews and nieces.  I am a Big Hit with nephews and nieces, mostly because I’ve discovered that uncles don’t have to be responsible so much as weird and kooky, and I’m like that normally.  I have a six-pack of silly string, all ready to go.

Anyway, that’s not what this is about.  This is a serious, contemplative post about beer.  Beer: bread in a can.  Beer: what bellies and goggles are made of.  Beer: it’s so awesome, it can heal you.

I do so appreciate the twisted, bizarre humor that runs like an infected vein throughout the WAR world, and never so much as last night when I respecced back to Tinker (bombs were fun, but too predictable) and had enough mastery points to finally reach up and grab the Bugman’s Best ability.  Bugman, as if you didn’t know, was possibly the best dwarf who ever dwarfed, mostly because he made such a potent brew that the stout people of whatever-we-call-Warhammer’s-world (New Jersey?) are just raving nuts about it.  The brewery that makes it is actually a battlefield objective, and it’s a point of pride that dwarfs keep it on the side of Order.

So anyway, this funky little ability lets me plop down a keg of BB, which then sends out “healing waves” of beer suds.  I kid not.  The beer is so incredibly strong that its mere fumes are enough to heal.  The humor value of it alone somewhat makes up for its 1-second cast time (why do Tinker abilities all have cast times, especially for a mastery path that’s the *short range* path?), meager heal and 15-second limited duration (which is 5 AOE healing pulses).  Now, in groups, I almost don’t engage the enemy at all, but just keep laying down gadgets — turrets, land mines, lightning rods, barbed wire… and BEER.  Homer Simpson would be proud.  Sometimes if I have extra time, I set up a Tiki bar and hand out refreshments for my group.

In other Syppy news, I’m poking and prodding at some alts-in-the-making.  Perhaps I’ll start a reality show where I vote them off the PQ or something.  I have Spooky, a White Lion who’s level 5 — she’s okay, but I’m far from sold on the Conehead look the High Elves sport, plus the wimpy axe and shawl-looking mane keep me from feeling like the man I know I am.  Then there’s Shivers, a level 3 Witch Hunter, who I know I’ll enjoy playing but I feel guilty doing so until I have a tank or healer under my belt.  What I am seriously contemplating is unleashing Wotworks — my comb-over’d, one-eye cranky dwarf Runepriest on the elf lands.  I don’t fancy doing dwarf content zones again, but I could stomach the elf lands if I had a grumpy dwarf who could roleplay his way through the HE areas as a guy so addled that he forgot where he parked his car and he’s on an epic quest to get home… or find a designated driver.

Beer.  Heal responsibly, kids.

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Poll: What WAR Feature(s) Do You Like Best So Far?

October 23, 2008

We’re not trying to give the impression that the honeymoon period’s worn off to such an extent that all that’s left are the dregs of complaints and unwashed dreams.  Truth is, we wouldn’t be playing Warhammer Online if the good didn’t far outshadow the bad (or broken or borked) — and we need to revel in the goodness from time to time.  So check out this poll and honestly check the features of WAR that have and continue to thrill you:

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