Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My views on tanking and helping guildies

We have a guy in our guild that moved two characters over. One character is really well geared, but he refuses to play him anymore. The other is a plate healer that wears cloth and leather. He has 13k unbuffed hit points. At level 80.

His main hand weapon is a level 70 healing purple mace.

Last night I was going to take some time off and relax and play my now level 63 shaman but when I logged in I saw guildies standing around not accomplishing anything so my instincts kicked in and snatched them all up and made them run heroics.

Since I was tanking no one had any objections to this, even though 3 of the 6 on could tank with off specs and had the gear. Therein lies the problem in this game. 40% of the classes or something like that can tank, but people refuse to do it. So when a dude that likes to tank logs in, I expect some action to be taken. I hate standing around, but that is not why I tank.

I tank because of several things:

A) I like to control the tempo of the fight.

B) By and large I don't trust many other people to do it, although lately I have seen nothing but really solid tanks in all my LFG tool parties.

C) I like the adrenaline rush

D) I like to keep people alive, force the focus of the fights toward certain targets, and keep things at a pace that will have my group succeed.

E) I look fucking badass with an axe and shield and I get to charge and slam said shield in the face of people and strange creatures. Happy Holidays bitch.

F) I love standing there with 44,000 hit points and be constantly beat on and have it roll off me with little to no effect.

Thus I found myself helping out this undergeared guild member last night by running and farming not only REGULAR instances but also some fast heroics that I knew he could heal and not have issues with. You know what happened? Nothing but mail and cloth dropped, or PROT plate gear. Other nights, nothing but healing plate gear drops. Last night...nadda.

While we got him some badges and things like that, I cannot help but feel that he could have easily replaced that healing weapon with a green in the AH already, or worked on his faction to get some rewards off the vendors. Somewhere in the back of my mind it is niggling at me that maybe he is simply waiting to soak up some free gear in a easy 10 man practice run like Naxx. I hope that is not the case, because 80% of the gear he has can be upgraded and replaced through the AH or through faction rewards.

This tells me that he is perhaps a wee bit behind still on what he admitted. Most Recruit A Friend toons look exactly like his. You can always tell those because they have low faction, little to no achievement points and really crappy ass gear at level 80. Still there ARE things you can do to circumvent this. You just need to put in the effort. I don't mind helping, but at least put forth some effort you know what I mean?

World of Warcraft PUG Bingo cards

This has to be reposted and spread about.

These cards cover just about every idiot WoW player and douchebag out there, including some people you may know in your OWN guild. Never have I seen such a concise summary of NOOBdom the likes of which these Bingo cards display. If there was ever an exact example of why to NOT make this game any easier for the Mr. T commercial loving crowd, these provide them! Enjoy!

Original post here:


Example image:

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="466" caption=""Anyone have recount?""]PUG Bingo Card[/caption]

Lets see last night alone I got

"Entire group is silent"

"Standing in ghoul explosion"

"Female character with trampy name"

"Member of the group misses invitation"

"Healer spam heals OOM after every pull"

Monday, December 28, 2009

Busy WoW holidays and tanking again

Running a guild and trying to get it up and humming is taking a lot of my time, as is equipping my warrior to be an off tank in 10 man raiding. I have had to switch all my time to him and really plow ahead and gear him up with run after run each night.

Other than that I managed to get some games on STEAM this holiday season during these insane deals the digital distribution site is running.

I am also back heavily into Borderlands so picked up The Island of Dr. Ned DLC content. I rebuilt BOTH my gaming systems to Windows 7 over the weekend so I am still working out the tweaks on that.

I also got a new nVidia 240 GT video card to treat myself, upgrading from a 8800 GT that I had been using for about 3 years. That card was a workhorse but also HUGE, the new card is half the size and does not require an onboard power connector to be used.

So busy holidays coupled with a LOT of game playing means little to no blogging. Nothing interesting to report really other than I am trying to learn to tank all these instances that I skipped over leveling my rogue and it has been fun.

On one hand, Q'ing up as a tank means I have no down time. On the other hand, tanking as a warrior and not using the EZ Mode paladin that most people tank with has been challenging to say the least. My 80 paladin is stripped and naked back on another server, and I am going forward with the warrior because it is most what I am used to.

I also have a 62 shaman that is elemental and fully decked out in heirloom gear. I plan on replacing my 80 priest and 80 rogue with this character since evidently Blizzard feels the need to make rogues all but worthless since AOE DPS'ing is where it is at. Failing that I can always spec the shaman enhancement and do my thing. She is already dual spec'd into resto and elemental so I am good to go.

I said SHE yes. I didn't want or I could not tolerate another retarded looking Draenei male character. For me it is bad enough they have the DUMBEST looking mounts in the game but the males just look stupid. I had to go female if I was forced to play one.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Aww how cute: a blogger war ends

Oh Tobold...you sell out emo drama queen....
In the spirit of christmas, and after reading Genda's post about the issue, I decided to unilaterally end the blog war with Syncaine. My apologies for reacting so angrily to his posts, his way of stating "facts" I believe to be false got to me. You won't hear again about him here. I deleted his blog feed from my newsreader.

Such dumb crap. Bloggers fighting each other over the internet, thinking their opinion matters to anyone. Get over yourselves. Too bad Tobold and Syncaine can't end each others blog in a giant nuclear fireball from hell. Of course then I wouldn't be able to laugh so much reading their love spats. I would also miss Syncaine's insightful posts about how PVP games will conquer the world and Darkfall is so awesome. His reverse advertising for hits on his blog is pretty clever. Also who could go a day without more Captain Obvious posts from Tobold like:

"Hello WoW players, how should I play my healer? I heard rumors they are needed in groups. Discuss!" or "I don't know if you my readers knew this but there are QUESTS and then there are QUESTS! Which do you like?"

On an up note have a good holiday everyone! I know I will!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Avatar snags a Best Picture: Drama category nomination

Golden Globes were announced that the ceremony, taking place in 30 days, usually gives a good hint at the Oscar nominations.

Avatar has gotten a Best Picture: Drama nod and the last time this happened was for the Lord of the Rings movies. So I have good hopes for the film going into this weekend

The films put up for the drama category are:

Best Motion Picture - Drama

Lightstorm Entertainment; Twentieth Century Fox

The Hurt Locker
Voltage Pictures; Summit Entertainment

Inglourious Basterds
The Weinstein Company/Universal Pictures/A Band Apart/Zehnte Babelsberg GmbH Production; The Weinstein Company/Universal Pictures

Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire
A Lee Daniels Entertainment / Smokewood Entertainment Group Production; Lionsgate

Up In The Air
Paramount Pictures; Paramount Pictures

You can read all the nominations here:


Friday, December 4, 2009

You can't make a classic better: Diablo 2

Yeah I reinstalled Diablo 2 on my travel laptop. I still love this game, and in my opinion over the last 9 years or so NOTHING has beat it. Nothing. Not Torchlight, not Titan Quest, not Dungeon Hunter on the i-Pod Touch.

You want to know why? 3D that is why. Fuck 3D and all that fancy crap. What makes Diablo 2 work is its look, feel and quickness. The ease of the view, the need to not zoom in, the fast attack rate, the sounds, and the overall feeling of the lighting and gear to this day still look great. I don't care what people say. Sure, on a huge screen running at 800x600 it won't look fantastic but what Blizzard did with the space they had was incredible.

I have tried many clones and I will be honest I don't like the clunky way they play. Mythos, Dungeon Runners, Titan Quest all never lasted more than 2 days with me. Torchlight? About one week and in fact it made me go BACK to Diablo 2.

Listen, sometimes fancy and 3D is not the best thing to shoot for. GAMEPLAY is. There is a new hack to make Diablo 2 run in 1024 resolution but I have not tried it yet. The game also can play with NO CD with the 1.12 patch, but there is a stipulation. After some research I found out the following:
If all required Diablo 2 '.MPQ' files are installed on the hard drive, the game will no longer require the CD to play.

For users that originally performed a 'Full Installation' and wish to run without the CD, all '.MPQ' files should be copied from the Diablo 2 CDs to the Diablo 2 directory. Most users will only need to copy D2Music.mpq from the Diablo 2 Play CD and/or D2xMusic.mpq from the Lord of Destruction CD. Mac users will need to copy these music files and rename them to 'Diablo II Music' and 'Diablo II Expansion Music' respectively.

Anyone who did not perform a 'Full Installation' will need to re-install from CD again to ultimately play without the CD. In this case, a 'Full Installation' is required, followed by file
copy step noted above.

Until Diablo 3 comes out (which is 3D yes but keeps that great vantage point) I think I will just hack away in D2 on the train on the way to work.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Do we really need more easy in our MMO's?

MMO's that are too easy dilute the player base and when those people get bored, they move on and start bitching in other games. WoW has diluted the player base to a bunch of scrubs for the most part, and they all demand the same easiness and hand holding in each game, passing over other titles that might have more depth to offer if they actually READ or learned the mechanics.
When WoW started out, during the 40 man raid times, a lot of ex EQ1 guilds jumped over and you had some great players. Now it is a joke.

As you can see, a new player experience does not need to be so easy that it holds your hand. Look, if you are getting a MMORPG and it is your FIRST game like that, at least know ahead of time that there will be intricate controls and things you will have to READ and understand in order to advance.

WolfsHead Online has a look at changing the new player experience in MMO's. I like the way EQ2 works because it is in depth from the get go and weeds out the morons. Some may find it hard to believe, but I don't want to play my MMO's with a watered down populace that bought a game like WoW because they saw it on a Mountain Dew can and then clicked Night Elves because they were pretty and the background was sparkly.

That is why there are two classes of MMO right now, but sadly the second, more mature class is dwindling and we are getting spoon fed more stuff like Free Realms. I understand that the WolfsHead article is more about DESIGN than a new MMO being easy to win, but people seem to like the fact that WoW is easy to get into.

Hey I admit it WoW is great because of that but not on the level you would think. I like it because it WORKS, it is laid out properly and the game functions soundly. I will be the first to admit that EQ2 is a MESS if you start in Freeport or Qeynos. Darklight Woods however is another story. A perfect example of a company learning and doing something right, but sadly 2 years after Blizzard's mega monster had crushed Sony's effort.

One of the fundamental reasons that the player base in EQ2 is so much more stellar than your typical WoW server is that the game is deep, rich and requires half a brain to play for the most part. WoW is not the same game I fell in love with 4 years ago. Gone are the EQ1 vets, the experienced players, the mature crowd that now you have to weed out of the populace by interviewing them in a guild application. Gone are the tougher content days and the faction diversity. If you pop over to EQ2, things are much different and the game has layers to learn. Same with a title like Dungeons and Dragons Online or to some extent Guild Wars. Lord of the Rings Online not so much. Have you tried to play Anarchy Online lately? I know I know many are saying why would I but that is not my point. AO is a HARD game. However it is a DEEP game.

MMO's used to be hard affairs that rewarded you for sticking around, staying with your guild, and getting to the level cap. While Blizzard did a lot to rejuvenate how people see the genre, they also felled it in one sweeping gigantic blow of their money empowered fist.

There is a difference between being a HARD game and a HARD game that eases you into gameplay. World of Warcraft is a easy game that never stops holding your hand. As such at the end of your illustrious 80 level hand holding grind you are faced with grouping with imbeciles or hunting down other non imbeciles, forming a guild, and then dealing with their baggage. I am not immune I will not lie by stating that Eve Online scares the crap out of me. However I did try it I just didn't get in depth as some other players. I asked questions, I researched, I did my homework. Same with Spore or any other game .

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thoughts on the new Prisoner series

The Prisoner was ok, but I found it lacking in terms of the Village itself. In the original series the Village was a pivotal character and took on a life of its own. I can understand that by shrinking the series to 6 hours they have to not include a lot of ideas of the original series, but I think that not fleshing out the Village takes a lot from the show and the ideas that the first series try to focus on. In the first series there were elections, a ruling body, sports and all sorts of strange and odd things. In this new version it seems just a pale backdrop.

As for this idea for Number 2 I am not sure I like it. Number 2 never had family, if the current number 2 failed to convert 6, a new Number 2 was always brought in. The thing that made the original Prisoner series so great was the constant struggle between 6 and the CURRENT Number 2. If 2 failed, he would be ousted by Number 1 and replaced with a new Number 2. The 2's never wanted to fail and that was a great thing about the old show. How could 6 get the Number 2 removed and who would win that battle?

In the new version of the series, 2 has a family and is rather well planted in the Village. Also we have not heard 6 even question who "1" may be which is a little bit strange. Overall with the editing and odd cuts I really did not follow the second episode at all as it tried to be a little too "spooky and mysterious" it seemed to be confusing and not able to tie up lose ends.

So far I give the show  2 1/2 stars and I hope it integrates things a little better or it could end up being a let down. I understand that they do not want to simply recreate the old show but I do feel like they passed up a good chance to really shine by not updating the old classic but making it more streamlined which is the direction I would have gone with it.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Prisoner debuts tonight on AMC!

Folks, the PRISONER has been remade on AMC.


…but now it is being remade and they have lined up Gandalf himself to play Number 2.
Though it ran for a mere 17 episodes, the sci-fi spy drama THE PRISONER is one of television’s biggest cult hits. The brainchild of star Patrick McGoohan, the series followed the adventures of No. 6 (McGoohan), a former secret agent who is being held captive in a highly secured village, the location of which remains a mystery throughout the series. This groundbreaking and innovative show reached an unfortunate end as TV bosses got cold feet following low ratings and increasingly strange story lines. But McGoohan himself took control and steered the show to an ending that continues to cause great debate among THE PRISONER’s faithful fans.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Installing the Dragon Age: Origins toolset with Windows 64 bit

A lot of people that purchased the game via Steam are getting the following error when they go to install the toolset:

"SQL Server Setup failed to execute a command for server configuration. The error was [Microsoft] [SQL Native Client] [SQL Server]Incorrect syntax near '='. "

While there is a thread on the Bioware site to fix this it is like reading a post on the WoW forums about nerfing paladins. 6 pages of shit followed by maybe one page of good advice.

Here is what I did for the install to work. Run the setup and it will hang when you go to install MS SQL Server.

Stop what you are doing WHILE THE ERROR is on the screen and point yourself to (Windows Vista 64 bit):

C:Program Files (x86)Steamsteamappscommondragon age originstoolstoolssqlMSSQL.1MSSQLInstallsysdbupg.sql

Edit that with notepad.

Find the line

SELECT @certificate_name = QUOTENAME(@certificate_name, '''')

Replace it with

SELECT @certificate_name = '''' + REPLACE(@certificate_name, '''', '''''') + ''''

Save the file. If you cannot save the file, congrats on running your own operating system as a non administrator. Please uninstall Windows and learn to PC!

Hit the RETRY button.

Now it should run. It is important to leave the error window up as you do this, edit the file save it then hit RETRY. After all is said and done you will get one last error saying it cannot write to C:Program Files (x86)Common FilesBioware.

Simple fix here is go to C:Program Files (x86)Common Files and create the folder Bioware, then hit retry.

A pain in the ass I know but until Bioware fixes this that hack will have to do. The Bioware thread is here:


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dragon Age: Origins releases today...not sure I care though

Came a time long ago that I was ITCHING to jump into this game. However, as with most titles OTHER than WoW I just do not find myself drawn to it.

The problem is that MMO's have spoiled me to the point where I feel like if I play a single player game I am getting NOTHING accomplished. Instead I feel guilty for not logging into WoW and getting things done on one of my level 80 characters.

So it is that Dragon Age launches today, or should I say is shipped, and people will probably flock to it on the consoles as well as the PC.

Now though I find myself not interested because I just don't have the time to sink into it or get into the mechanics or gameplay when I really just want to log into WoW and get some things done.


IF my characters were considered by myself to be DONE and complete in WoW then maybe I would log in less. Since I am returning to the game after a 7 month layoff and I am way behind the curve I find myself plenty busy with tons of things to do in WoW for its 14.99 subscription rate rather than dumping 50 bucks on a game I would not touch.

I cannot be the only one thinking this right?

Anyway, here are some early thoughts on the game as well as a link to the typical "day of release review" from Gamespot:

Gamespot: http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/dragonage/review.html?tag=topslot;title;1

Various comments around the web:
Firstly let me say that this is a great game in many ways. Truly I think people will be talking about DA:O for years to come. There's a lot they've done right in this game and the level of polish that comes across is fantastic. I think this game will have a huge fan base and tons of mods coming out.

However let me say something bad about the game.. It's definitely of the modern type of 'RPG on rails' type of game with lots of lengthy dialog sessions. It's an adventure RPG, as Risen was. But I like DA:O's combat far far more than Risen because Risen's was (as long as I played it) just frustrating and unfair and unfun. But know that DA:O uses a dynamic enemy generating system to keep every battle at the same difficulty so you can die in any battle. The pause system is great. I think the combat should be slowed down by 40% or so though, especially at lower levels.

Unlike the great RPG's of the 80's and early 90's, this game has a lot of obligatory dialog and story telling, even more than Risen, I think. In that sense, it isn't an RPG. But the rest of the game is RPG, yes.

Let me say one thing though, I LOVE the look and feel of the user interface. It's so clean, flashy, and has nice sounds. It's not hard to find what you want to find either. The UI doesn't suffer consolitis.

More comments I found:
I received the game yesterday via a pre-order from the EA Store.

I am of the opinion that story telling (good to great story telling) is what differentiates a great RPG from a mediocre one, but again, that is just my own opinion.

Having said that, the linear feel that was alluded to is there. This is no Oblivion. Each area has a canned feel about it, which may not bode well for some.

The Bioware formula is there. If you have played KOTOR, Mass Effect, etc, you know what to expect. A story driven RPG. It is frankly, too early for me to tell if the game will meet the expectations of the gaming community at large. But I am enjoying it, the little I have played it thus far.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Asheron's Call has 5 extra years on WoW

Asheron's Call today celebrates 10 freaking years in service.
As one of the original Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPG), AC is a fully developed world - complete with a deep history, committed community, and compelling ongoing storyline. Turbine will celebrate this major milestone by running live events throughout the day that will bring back some of the most loved (and feared) signature lore characters and villains of its rich 10-year history.


I remember a lot of things about Asheron's Call but I dont remember the actual game mechanics. Instead what I do remember is having FUN in an MMO and exploring and finding trouble to get into with my gaming buddy.

I remember Asheron's Call as not having any zones except for the dungeons which at the time was a mind boggling idea. After all I was knee deep in Everquest 1 at the time and the idea of instances or zone in portals was foreign to me. Everything in EQ1 was cuththroat and wide open and you had to race people to Lower Guk or Sebilis.

I remember the game not having overland zones and thinking it was amazing to be able to get to the top of a mountain and look out over everything and figuring out where I wanted to go to. The only game that has brought this feeling back was Vanguard, but unfortunately that game sucked a boatload of ass.

So it is with fond memories that I look back on Asheron's Call and its pyramid scheme guild organizations and its odd Spell I, Spell II, Spell III descriptions. I look back on having to drop things on the ground to trade to them between my characters, and I used to do so under a bridge so no one would find my things.

I remember some of the creatures and the weird agro radius and fighting along a beach and some cave I would go into to get pelts.

Those were the good old days in MMO gaming before mainstream came around and we were surrounded by the idiots we are today. Back then games were hard and I LIKED IT.

Ok, back to web surfing all of you.

asherons call_qjpreviewth

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Aion combats spammers after it launches?

However why wasn’t this ALREADY INCLUDED IN THE GAME? For the love of ZEUS how many MMO launches do we have to go through where gold spamming control is a second thought until it blows up out of control?

  1. Lani Blazieraion_liv RT @aion_xaen And when NA servers are brought up whispers will be limited to lvl 5 and above.This is a short term fix. EU servers to follow.about 2 hours ago from web

  2. Lani Blazieraion_liv RT @aion_xaen …You can now right click a name in the chat window and block them if for some reason you wish to not listen to them

Musical landslide

All my money this past month went to new music CD’s or digital downloads. Some bands I like to have a physical copy, especially if I know my other half will want to put it on her I-Pod as well.

These bands I listen to had new albums last month:

Alice in Chains (a lot of you younger kids out there may not remember this band)
3 Days Grace
Breaking Benjamin

Now of course many of them will go on tour which will further make me decide who I want to see. Alice in Chains would be the obvious front runner and Chevelle has already done a concert for cheap in a huge warehouse in downtown Chicago. Now the waiting game begins on Breaking Benjamin. At least October is here now and I can save some cash for Borderlands!

Friday, September 25, 2009

NC Soft: Aion to reduce private store timers

I got this blurb from a Titans member so I will post it here
In case you missed it they are bringing the servers down at 6:00am PST on September 25th for maintenance so that they can apply a 30 minute timer to private stores to hopefully reduce or eliminate the queues.

There we go. Should fix a ton of issues. Of course my other thing would be to move the private stores to a large slab of concrete off to the side somewhere and make it so people can only setup there. Much like the Bazaar in EQ1. You know…a game that was doing this 10 years ago.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Champions negatives with tried and true responses

Bio Break has a great post up today nailing everything that is wrong with Champions (besides the fact it’s a clone quest engine game):


(And no Syp I am not trying to say you are all negative on it now however it is good to see SOMEONE point this stuff out).

To be predicted, which is why I am not playing, however we still have people creating excuses for a game that was shoddy at release which I recognized in beta and convinced me not to buy it.

As I have preached over and over I am no longer in the business of instantly buying any MMO because it is released let alone fall like a sucker for a lifetime subscription. Complacent comments? Sure thing. Lets make more excuses to justify wasting money right now:
The rubber banding caused by high latency in CO is litterally like sitting at the end of a rubber band with someone extending and contracting it quickly. When it’s bad, it can make you feel quite ill.

I agree wholeheartedly about the UI being unresponsive. It basically takes a click-spam to activate any of the change-zone buttons, and I’ve noticed quite a bit of UI lag when it comes to blocking.

I think that if they address a lot of these issues in the first quarter of their release Champions could become a very solid if not great game. – HUDS NOTE: Nothing like forking over money to be a beta tester, good job!

In my opinion, Champions could turn out to be a great game, but they are in the same boat that Mythic was in just after launch (HUDS NOTE: which was…RELEASING A POOR GAME yet you still all bought it didn’t ya!?

I am sure that a “Positives” post will follow on some blog (because people cannot say bad things about a game and leave it at that) wherein they mention cool costume creations and “combat that is NEAT!” however I am no longer sold and wasn’t 4 months ago. I still don’t see any cool blog posts about people’s adventures in the game or how much neato fun they are having. Could it be because you are simply being led from quest to quest with predictable results? If not, prove me wrong.

Let the backlash build. I don’t buy into a game to hope it gets better and neither should you.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Late Summer hard drive cleaning

Here is where I stand trying to consolidate everything on my gaming PC. I run Windows Vista 64 bit and usually when I buy a new computer or have one built and shipped from Dell I immediately reformat it upon setup in my office. The last time I bought an XPS however I did not do this. I did REMOVE all the Dell software put on there as a pre install (which wasn’t much because luckily ordering a XPS gaming machine is very customizable) but no hard drive format occurred. The reasons for this were numerous but much of it revolved around being lazy. So I have had this machine for a year now (as of June) and it has not failed me yet. Despite the atrocious amount of games, software apps and all around junk I have put on, taken off and moved about the machine still works pretty quickly.

I finally went over the list of games in my second chop session and found quite a few that still lurked in the dark corners of my hard drive. Among the things I removed:

Perfect World International

Chronicles of Spellborn

Older DDO client

Lord of the Rings Online

Company of Heroes online Chinese client

Aion and that annoying NC Soft launcher

Champions Online closed beta client

League of Legends closed beta

UFO Afterlight

Everquest 2


Universe at War (one of the WORST RTS games I have ever played)

Men of War demo

Theatre of War 2 demo

Sim City 4

Guild Wars

Atlantica Online

Surviving the cut yet again:

Half Life 2

I was actually quite amazed at the amount of junk games still leave behind even when you tell them to UNINSTALL. So for now, my hard drive is pretty clean again and I hadn’t even remembered I had set it to defrag once a week at about 3am on Wednesdays.

I still have the majority of my shooters on my drive as well as some MMO’s and tons of wargames. I am tempted to do a wipe and reinstall of the OS but right now re-patching Company of Heroes and all the trouble I went through would just not be worth it. Yes, it was that bad.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Blizzard: our new MMO is totally different

But what I could tell you is that we’re intending to create a game experience that is unlike anything that has ever been done before. Something that I think takes things far beyond what anyone has imagined and certainly anything anyone has executed. I think a lot of people love this product, WoW, and anticipate that they’ll continue to love it and continue to want to play it.

When you think about another MMO, if you look at it and say, “Well, you have this game and it’s this amount of money, and you have this game and it’s this amount of money and you have this amount of time, how do those co-exist?”

My feeling is, on the business side, there’s always a way to make things co-exist because you know you start looking at, “I want you to be in the Blizzard universe of games.” So you can look at it from the perspective of, “Oh maybe there are different programs where you can have access to all of the things or a certain amount of things.” You just don’t know, and we don’t either.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Birth of America 2: mini review

Back again with another history lesson. The wargame I have been playing the most lately is still Birth of America 2, when I am not “killin’ Nazis” in Company of Heroes.

This game has a very attractive map, easy to learn play system, and really great historical detail that just sucks me in. Plus, while I am reading Almost A Miracle, I am really on a huge Revolutionary War kick.

Birth of America and its sequel at first struck me as odd wargames, but in time I have started to really like them. Despite the fact that the combat is a tad bit too abstract for me, I do like the way the game emphasizes command and structure. These two facets were key back in the day and Ageod, the makers of Birth of America, followed this idea up even better when they released Napoleon’s Campaigns.

When you look at BOA2 you notice that the map is not hexes but provinces. You will also notice that it is designed with great detail and looks great. I don’t want to turn this post into a review, but it is required to explain what you are looking at in terms of the units on the typical BOA2 map. The game harkens to the Stratego love in all of us, only it allows more movement and far greater depth. Each “unit” you see on the map is actually a container, within which are the actual regiments, supply wagons and other combatants. So picture it if you as a board game, on which are Stratego type markers. Each marker can be moved to other provinces, and each represents an army. Pretend if you will that on the side of the game board you have a cardboard mat upon which the contents of the board containers are actually placed.

You are allowed to move the contents of the containers to other contents and change the strength of the on board markers at will. Each container, usually a general, can only command a certain amount of troops. So you have to spend some time in the game shuffling who commands what and trying to avoid command penalties.

That is the most base description I can give about the game, and suffice it to say that is not detailing the little rules you must know to get ahead in the game. I just wanted to point out what the map markers went because when you first look at it all one sees is the images of famous generals and no military units. Luckily, by clicking on a map marker (or Troop Display Marker), you can see all the units attached to it at the bottom of the screen. This took me a while to get used to as I was coming off of being a straight hex warfare guy.

So the battle I picked to do my first learning game of Birth of America 2 was the Pequot Wars of 1638. This is a small 8 turn scenario in a very small section of the map that is fast and simple to play. This scenario centers on a very unknown war that was fought between Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth colonies against the Pequot tribe. The cause of conflict centered around escalating violence between native american tribes and colonist traders who were kidnapping, plundering and basically making a mess of things. The Pequot were attacking other Indian traders who were friendly to the Dutch in 1633 and this only set the stage for later violence. Tensions came to a head on July 20, 1636, when a respected trader named John Oldham was attacked on a trading voyage to Block Island. One thing to remember about Birth of America 2 is its tagline, which is Wars in America. This game covers EVERYTHING that helped shaped this nation, all the way through 1815. Quite an extensive amount of battles and all them are meticulously researched.

BOA2 uses a simple simultaneous turn resolution system, and because of this you have to think ahead since you never know when, during the turn processing, you may bump into the enemy or stumble upon a large force. You plot your moves, and then end the turn and watch the events unfold for 30 days. Each turn is indeed one month, so careful thought about where to move and how to get there comes into play. You can plot the movement of a unit province by province if you want, but each move adds to the amount of time it will take to get to the final destination. All of this makes for a pretty realistic simulation of command and control back in the day, since you never really knew exactly where enemy units were or the size of the combatants. There is a built in detection and hide mechanic in the game too, so it is quite possible that two units can be in the same province and skirt by each other. The Native American units have really good hide values and can even be put in ambush mode in a province to await an enemy force to pass through so they can attack with bonuses.

Last but not least, leaders are crucial in this game. Many have special abilities, as noted by cool symbols on their markers, and can really help to turn the tide of battle and provide combat bonuses. Since leaders can only control a certain amount of units in there “container” you really have to balance the size of your armies and watch their supply and overall cohesion. Move them too much, leave them in the wilderness and cut off, or make the force so large it has communication break downs and you will take casualties as well as perform horribly in combat.

Provinces in the game are also controlled by one side or the other, and you have to work to flip a territory over. Once you do, supply can pass through there and it makes your advance much easier.

Combat is played out in 6 rounds a day. Since one turn is 30 days, you could imagine that some battles, much like real warfare back then, could extend 7-12 days or more. The initial range is determined by terrain and the type of units involved, and then each round the range decreases by one until the combat turns to hand to hand. You do not actually see this on the screen, and this is where the game may be a let down for some. Instead all the factors are done behind the scenes and a battle wheel is show on the screen to represent the flow of that round. Once the conflict is over a summary screen appears declaring the final victor. This summary screen is the meat and potatoes of the combat system Look it over closely and you can see exactly what happened through the use of symbols, numbers and hovering the mouse over the various parts of the screen. Below is a very small battle fought between two Native forces. All units have stats that determine at what range they opened fire, how much damage they can do if they hit, and how good they are in assault combat. The basic rule of the game is get units that have more range than your opponent, have good leaders, and attack smartly.

That is all for the small overview today. Later on this month I will post a more in depth report of the game as I play it and then hopefully people can see how much this unique strategy game is. The great thing is Ageod has used this engine in their Napoleon game as well as their award winning Civil War game so I know that I have plenty of great wargaming around the bend in the future.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Second Skin: A MOCKumentary

I recently watched Second Skin, a documentary about people that play MMORPG’s. This film had been in production quite a while and was flip flopping around as to when it would be released. The primary amount of footage is from 2006 when Burning Crusade was released. Termed as an “intimate disturbing look” they sure hit the mark. You can watch the whole thing on Hulu, but I am not so sure you want to.

Directed by Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza the film immediately takes a turn for the worse when it decides to focus on how these games pretty much destroy or ruin a person’s life rather than focus on the games and the gamers themselves. What we have here is a film that takes the very stereotypes that we as MMO gamers battle to shrug off and pushes them out to the audience and makes many of us almost ashamed to  be playing MMO’s.

The film doesn’t cover the industry, it doesn’t cover what the games involve, the way people interact in them or how much fun they can be. Instead the film plucks every stereotype of gamer there is (only the worst ones mind you) and then paints all of us gamers in a terribly bad light.

Lets take a look at the type of gamers featured in Second Skin and rattle off a who is who list of what other people believe MMO players to be like:

  • *Lets see… take introverted lady that only finds love on internet in a game and probably owns 8 cats : check

  • *Fat dudes that do nothing but guzzle energy drinks and power level: check

  • *Dude that loses job cause of gaming: check. As a bonus lets have him in a run down house with no carpet and a friend that looks like a meth addict: BONUS CHECK

  • *Creepy guy that preys on women through MMO’s and nerd flirts with them over voice chat: check

  • *Interview mother who parented so poorly kid shot himself. Then show her trying to help other evil gamers and failing OH NOES!: check

  • *Take couple with soon to be dad that doesn’t want to relinquish gaming time to parent: check

  • *Coverage of gamers that live together and forget to buy basic household items, but lets cover them at a grocery store stocking up to power level in WoW the night before expansion comes out: check

What other gamer stereotype did they miss? I am pretty sure they covered them all. Yup, that’s all of us alright! Although I am sure every MMO player has run into those types and that most games do have a ton of those types of people playing, the film does nothing to go out of its way to show them in a good light. The only truly feel good story in the mix is the handicapped gentleman that is just happy to be able to play and gets a sense of freedom when he does so. Thank you for at least shedding light on one positive thing gaming can do to people. The movie also focused on a few couples quickly, but did not go into their normal lives. At least those people look like they had it together. Would like to have seen more of them.

When the films tries to cover something that is controversial such as gold farming it is glossed over. Wait though, they do interview a gold farming company head. Guess what! This is a kinder, gentler gold farming company and he wants to treat his slave labor employees with respect and take them on field trips and have love ins! Wow… maybe gold farming isn’t that bad after all. Hell I’ll go work for him according to what I saw in that film. Doesn’t look so bad to me!

Second Skin is pretty biased toward portraying MMO players as the utmost losers they could possibly find. All that time for this? Are you kidding me? Of all the 50 million gamers out there these people are the best you could find? One guy wouldn’t even keep toilet paper stocked in the house or go get any when his lady friend was calling him FROM the bathroom. Nope, gotta raid! Trust me, even though 90% of my WoW guilds and EQ1 guilds have at least one of those people, we usually find them few and far between. To quote another friend of mine that watched the “film”:
Looking at the stereotypes they portrayed reminds me of the Dark Ages… err… the 70’s and 80’s… when AD&D got such a bad rap for being evil. I used to save the news clippings to share with my groups. The typical story was of a dude that killed someone (or multiples) and/or committed suicide, and how police found “Dungeons and Dragons material in his house.”

Although there are a lot of gamers that fit some of the stereotypes in the film, there’s also a lot of us who don’t. We have jobs, families, stocked shelves, toilet paper, RL friends, other hobbies, etc… and also play MMORPGs. I’d like to see a follow-up story about some of us.

After watching Second Skin I felt dirty and ashamed. I did not feel the film did anything but set all of us gamers back 10 years in how we are portrayed. South park was bad enough, but we all took that one on the chin. This movie is an hour long exploration into a bunch of idiots that are not able to function in real life.

Now, if you all want something better head on over and check out the Discovery Channel HD’s fine mini series about gamers, games and how the effect lives and the economy. This show is called Gamer Generation and you can catch some episodes on You Tube.

I’m done ranting for the day, I got things to conquer. Hudson over and out.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Looking at my wargaming trends

Recently I have been trying to figure out what draws me towards certain wargames as opposed to others. Back when I started wargaming in 1980 or so, I was a young lad that spent hours upon hours with Avalon Hill’s Titans or Afrika Korps, moving chits and studying battles and basically I was a hard core freaking nerd.
Avalon Hills Afrika Korp
Avalon Hill’s Afrika Korps

My love for battles and war history and military conflicts has not changed, and even though I am well versed in WW2 and divisions and leaders and battles and the frontal armor of a Russian T-34, I like to branch out and learn about new conflicts.

Doing so presents a problem however. WW2 is the most over done genre in wargaming, and as such it has a slew of crappy games and some really hard to find jewels. This is not the case for themes like the Civil War or the Napoleonic era. Lately,  great amount of Civil War games have taken front stage and won some awards, from Forge of Freedom to Gary Grigsby’s War Between the States, the Civil War category is “heating up” for us grognards. That is all fine and good, but I am Civil War’d out. If that is even a phrase. Much like WW2 I really just have no interest. In fact the only WW2 topics I like to study to this day are Eastern Front campaigns. I mean honestly do we need ANOTHER damn D-Day game? I do not think so.

So the topic I picked this time around to dive BACK into the genre I so neglected while playing MMO’s is the age of horse and musket and even some time before that. Games covering anything from 1750-1815.  Heck I wouldn’t even mind a little World War One but right now the best game in that category is so complex I would need a PHD in awesomeness to even grasp it. World War One (aptly titled) by AGEOD games is on my radar but not until long after I get my Bunker Hill fix.

Revolutionary War here I come, but where to start? Options are limited. Aside from finding games you have to think about how in depth you want to get. Sure, there are several RTS games out there that cover this time period, but those are not WARGAMES. They are “lite” strategy games that are heavy on looks as opposed to being realistic. However, some gems do stand out. Rise of Nations is good for that aspect, if you lock down the years of gameplay and do not progress. Age of Empires 3 works, as does Empire: Total War. Of those 3, Empire Total War is the best “mainstream” thing us wargamers have for that time period.

That is not good enough for me. When I talk wargames I mean hexes, unit facing, supply, morale, leader values, replacements, sieges, turn based stuff that will take hours to complete a couple of turns in. So that narrows my options to hex based or provincial map based titles. From there we have some things to consider. I myself am not the biggest fan of this latest trend to veer the industry toward provincial areas on a map as opposed to hexes. That is just me being old school however. Every new game coming out seems to be province based as opposed to hexes so that is something I will have to get used to. While not many new games in that time period have been released recently, the ones that have come out in the middle of the decade prove to be very well done. The titles I have looked at are For Liberty! and Birth of America 2. Going WAAAY back to 2000 would net me the chance to gloss over 1776, a John Tiller game. However this game is so old and just so unattractive that I cannot bring myself to play it, and I am a veteran of 1995-2000 Tiller games trust me. I have just advanced beyond that look and those games have not changed at all. I need something a bit more substantial to look at. While most Tiller games are ok, he basically charges 50 bucks for databases. I do like a little production value in my titles. While this is a hotbed of controversy in the grognard circle I do have to say he produces very in depth sims. Heck I am not even sure half his titles will work on 64 bit Vista, but thats why they created compatibility mode.

To this day I still play his Campaign series set in the WW2 era. When the time comes I am sure I will give in to purchasing the re-release of his Napoleon and Civil War titles at Matrix Games.
For Liberty!For Liberty!

Birth of America 2 so far is a great game, however a bit abstract in terms of combat resolution. The engine is well hidden as to what exactly is going on, but the game is a blast to play so far. For Liberty! is a way more in depth combat game. If you do not resolve the battles in quick play format, you will be taken to the tacitcal battle screen and have a chance to move every unit, adjust facing, attack, retreat, supply, and take charge of the battle.

As I get more into detail with these games I will report back on what I find. However right now Birth of America 2 is taking most my wargaming time as I try to nail that system down. Luckily for me BOA2 has a system that is the basis for most AGEOD games, and that runs the gamut of Napoleon to Civil War. Once you learn one AGEOD system you can pick up all their games quickly.

The Napoleon era of gaming is quite alive and well in the wargame department, and my options are really open there, but for right now I want to focus on America’s war for Independence. After that I will hit up 1805-1815 then go from there to the Civil War.

Other things to take into consideration are game support, community and updates. AGEOD excels at this, as their designers and developers are readily available on the message boards. For Liberty! not so much. Hussar Games is a small outfit and has only 2 games under their belt and one is free and included with a For Liberty! purchase. Also they have relatively little contact with their playerbase which really turns me off from actually buying it.You need to also see if a demo is available and if there is a demo it usually includes a PDF manual so study that up and see if you grasp the game. Also check the forums for mods and see if there is still a buzz around the game. For instance, For Liberty! is really dead while BOA2 and all AGEOD games still have a very active community. Sometimes you can find fan sites, much like MMO’s have, that have mods and extend the life of these games (like the Colonial Campaigns Club).

Since I am relatively new at coming back to the genre in this time period, I would be more than open to other suggestions from other wargamers out there to other games that meet my criteria. I am not HUGE into grand strategy games. I don’t really want to play a nation and conquer the world, I want to focus on a specific conflict. One of the things I like to do the most is fight the battles and write about the outcome, like I did HERE with Korsun Pocket and HERE with Empire: Total War. Writing After Action Reports not only helps you understand the game, it makes it understandable to the reader.

Well I have babbled enough and I am sure my MMO reading crowd tuned out a while back. Those of you that remained thanks for your time!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Wargaming weekend

This weekend it is back to some really staunch wargaming titles that I do hope to get some after action reports up for. Hicks may beat me to it with Birth of America, but I do hope that I can nail down the instructions and learn Napoleon’s Campaigns to at least tackle the demo outright by Sunday morning.

While many of the games developed by AGEOD use the same engine as Birth of America and American Civil War, they all add on to one another and introduce little features you will have to put some effort into finding out about.
Despite being over two years old AACW, the second of four games produced so far by AGEOD, (Birth of America™, American Civil War™, Napoleon’s Campaigns™, and Wars in America™) continues to be this young company’s big winner. According to Thibaut, the game is still selling as many units as a year ago and user input is as strong as ever. As long as that continues the game will continue to be improved, and continue to evolve.

Hey speaking of games, if you decide to buy any of these poke around over on my favorite site for war game purchases, NWS Online. Run by a group of wargamers and people dedicated to supporting independent publishers, you will find some REALLY good deals there. I saved over 30 dollars on the purchase of Birth of America 2 and Napoleon’s Campaigns.

I have been on a new turn based wargame hunt lately, to get my fix when RTS games just get on my nerves. I have played a bit of Dawn of War 2 and Company of Heroes but of course most RTS games really skimp on the level of accuracy and simulation that I am looking for. Although I get some really epic battles in Company of Heroes, that is a WW2 game most suited for the ADD generation and really doesn’t suit my wargaming needs (sure is pretty though).

On another scale, I am still trucking away at Spore and recently reinstalled Civilization IV again, with all its expansions, to play on my laptop on the way in and out of work. Who needs sleep anyway? I can do that when I am dead.

I actually have so much on my plate now that I have removed the non expanding metal band that was around my brain put there by MMO’s that I cannot find the time to learn half of what I need to learn.

On the flip side my IQ is going up by the hour as I am forced to read books again to get my brain around things like the Battle of Borodino as well as other fascniating historical things I meant to read up on long ago. I guess that is a good thing right? Although I am sure I ruined a few cells drinking Old Style at the Cubs game yesterday.

Ok more later, once I decide to take up the battle of Guilford Courthouse and can report back!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Borderlands trailer sums up the game

Fun, fast, exciting and full of action.

Everything MMORPG’s don’t have. Notice I added RPG to the end. This is because Borderlands is post apocalyptic action without the RPG drama queen aspect added in. Which means you can have your multiplayer, co op fun and not deal with the emo drama associated with most MMORPG players. You can get in, get your things done, and get out plus invite people to come along for the ride. The combat is fast and the graphics are great. The setting is Pandora, a planet on the edge of the galaxy that people have been sent to to colonize. Problem is the planet sucks, and people leave, putting the poor chaps that have to stay there on a planet of lawless anarchy once the authorities take off.

I like this idea of a game, and I like the direction some of these titles are going. Less DIKU MMO, more combination action and excitement with some RPG elements thrown in there to tide me over. Plus I don’t have to deal with PVP unbalancing the game or the type of people that would play PVP centric MMORPG’s invading the game and acting like morons.

Why am I so excited? Easy really. Randomization and the Road Warrior theme, and a chance to get some action in away from the slower pace of Fallout 3 and take my show on the road with some buddies. ALL WITHOUT A LOADING SCREEN. The game has vehicle combat, minor questing, people can jump in and out of your game as you want them to, and it is by the studs at Gearbox. I bet money this one functions better than Fallen Earth out of the gate and has a larger player base. People don’t want old school boring MMO’s anymore. They want fast games like the way Left 4 Dead, DDO, Conan. Guild Wars 2 and this game are going. Heck I say bring back Tabula Rasa and make it more instanced. Give us guns, fast combat and the ability to jump in and out of groups and I am golden. That game was almost there, but it was just too shallow. What it and most MMO’s are missing are randomization and things being DIFFERENT and fresh when you log in. Also, people are sick of hitting hotbar buttons and waiting for the results on screen. I think that the future of many MMO’s will be fast, teamplay oriented FPS/RPG melded games that allow people to get things done in a short amount of time. Think Guild Wars meets Mad Max.
The features of the maps will also be randomly generated. While towns, and the general paths connecting them will remain the same, Borderlands features a system that randomly instances the surrounding landscape, with randomly placed things such as bunkers, towers, caves, enemies, and exploding cacti.

Gearbox plans that the player should not see a loading screen after they boot up the game, which will be an interesting task since the game is available on the PC, XBOX 360 and the PS3. The PS3 is notorious for its load times, but what console isn’t?
In addition, players have access to customizable vehicles for “vehicular combat” and will also be able to customize their character. Deceased enemies will drop their equipment, which is available for you to pick up. You will be able to choose from 4 different playable characters, who each have their own unique abilities. It is inspired by the Mad Max film series, World of Warcraft and Diablo by Blizzard.

Scheduled to release on October 23rd, Borderlands will feature four-player cooperative action where players are free to drop in and out of ongoing games. Less social players have the option to go single player only.

Additionally, the will include a content generation system that allows for a near infinite variety of weapons (87 bazillion guns, to be exact). That should be enough to head out and explore the treacherous alien world and blast away anything that gets in the way.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

MMO's almost rotted my brain

I looked at a stack of games I never finished because I felt the need, or the push, to keep up with friends or constantly level in generic MMO’s. I realized in a few recent betas that I was doing basically the same thing I had done since 2004 and suddenly now I cannot play any of them unless they play like a console game. Hence the only titles that kept me remotely interested were AoC (Age of Conan) and Dungeons and Dragons Online. However, looking at the stack of games I own and the money wasted got me to get off my gaming ass and click other icons on my desktop. Ok well, technically I am still sitting, but I managed to engage my brain a little bit more since many of these games required me to use skills long dead.


That part of my gamer brain that holds RTS strategy, micro management, assigning actual skill and ability points on leveling, and solving puzzles was long dormant thanks to years of blindly accepting quests and killing packs of 10 monsters (or 100+ if you are in a Middle Earth MMO).

I have the following to either complete or master to a level that I consider fully explored:

  • Elder Scrolls Oblivion. That is right, the entire thing including Shivering Isles.

  • Fallout 3. Getting through Megaton and actually finishing it.

  • Dawn of War 2. At least finish the single player campaign. I have already unlocked a good amount of multi player achievements

  • Spore plus all the add ons. This includes unlocking achievements in Galactic Adventures and winning trophies for completing missions in record times.

  • Empire Total War: I want to finish at least one Grand Campaign as a major world power.

  • Company of Heroes plus all the expansion packs

  • Sims 3: get through at least one session and finish a career

  • On the XBOX360 I need to finish Red Faction, Too Human, Saints Row 2, Star Ocean, Mass Effect, Grand Theft Auto IV and look out for Madden 2010.

As you can see, I have been a terrible gamer in ignoring some the best selling titles in 2-3 years in favor of “logging in” and repeating the same process in a MMO over and over again. Add to this the game that my Champions Online money will be going to, Dragon Age: Origins (game has a built in world editor as well), and I have over 120+ hours of gaming to do and less time to do it than when I played MMO’s religiously.

So where to start. Well this week has mostly been devoted to Spore and my attempt to get one race into space so that I can start running Galactic Adventure missions and designing my own. After Spore takes its mits off me I may have to head back over to Sims 3 and at least finish the career of my politician Chester Brock. Looming ever present is Fallout 3 and Oblivion, but I need good chunks of time to play those and prefer at least 3-4 hour blocks.

As for Dragon Age: Origins it is a single player game yes, but with a refined and powerful world editor toolset that will keep my going for ages. I have already sketched out a few modules to be planned out with it so I hope to hop in ASAP and start making content.
Dragon Age: Origins delivers a focused, single-player RPG experience. Since this is the first game set in the world of Dragon Age, the team wanted to concentrate on a single player experience that would allow the players to learn the incredible history, story, and lore in the game.

In Spore, I have given much thought to my Galactic Empire, the Atraxian Enclave. In my mind, I need to make sure all their buildings and vehicles maintain the proper racial appearance and look fluid, so I have spent some time planning out how I want them to look and what type of vehicles they would use. They are primarily a four armed, bi-pedal race with war like tendencies (go figure) but maintain a strong tribal heritage.

I have long ignored my really nerdy side and I think I need to get back to that. I used to spend hours developing a Neverwinter Nights world that had connecting zones and NPC’s and I even had a website describing all that. I need to get back to doing that sort of thing.

Now is the perfect time. It is too bad I am not a good Fallout 3 mod designer or I would be all over that.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Pretty soon you won't be able to tell the difference between CoX or CO

After all this, we won’t have to worry about getting Champions Online because City of Heroes will beat them to the punch by adding everything Champions has been splattering all over the media as unique features.

Announced recently for City of Heroes, as of Issue 16:
City of Heroes’ latest offering, Issue 16: Power Spectrum, forever changes the way all super powered beings will look at their powers. Now, changing the colors of your powers is as easy as changing the colors of your cape!

At last, our next free content update unveils the all new, much requested and long awaited Powers Customization system! You wanted more control over what your characters’ powers look like, and you are getting it!

Not only does the newly updated Character Creator allow players to jump directly between Archetype, Powersets, Costumes and Character ID in any order without losing progress, but it also allows you to select your colors and theme for each individual power or apply it to the entire powerset.

Give it a few more months and we can just meld the two games together as one SUPER GAME. Get it? Maybe not. Ok which game wants to have the LESS WoW like features and still add side content? City of Heroes wins. Maybe that is how we will tell them apart in the end. Which one is original? Who knows. I think do.

Ok continue on with your Friday plans.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fallout 3: A short adventure in Bethesda's world

Last night I came home and decided to avoid all MMO’s and immediately fired up Empire Total War. Before I get on to the rest of the post today I just want to say that even though that game is pretty slow to develop, I fought an epic battle against George Washington at the battle of Brandywine Creek. I didn’t want the British but somehow I got forced to play them. I could have won this battle. I was just too slow and did not use my units in a coordinated fashion. I had feints, flanks, and a few moments where I thought I would pull it out but in the end I just wasted too many men.

You can read what actually happened at Brandywine here, but for now that ends today’s history lesson. Empire Total War is an interesting beast because the campaign is basically a built in turn based strategy game and I really have to take the time to learn it.

Ok Fallout 3. I hear many of you groan but deal with it because I have not played this game through yet. I started over, finished the early part, escaped the Vault and headed out into the post apocalyptic nightmare. Usually as far as I had gotten was Megaton. Now though I really wanted to explore the whole game so I went right into that cesspit that I always try to clear out: the Springvale Elementary school.

I always end up in here but never really gave it too much thought. Last night I wanted to clear the whole thing out and I started off by heading around the back and taking out the bandits that live up in the ruined rafters there. The fascinating thing about Fallout 3 is that you can almost do whatever you want. Case in point last night when I spent my entire gaming session in a 3 story instanced building clearing out riff raff and getting involved in their back history. That is what I love about Fallout 3 and at the same time hate about it. There is almost TOO much to do, and unless  you go in set to invest time you will not like the game.

So back to the school. I had done this many times and I knew the exact spot of the bandits so I used crouch and picked them off, still getting used to the combat system I saved my action points better and suffered minor injuries. My problem in the this game is always ammo. I tried to lure many of the bandits around the corners and put them down with a baseball bat to the head.

Inside the school, and I never knew this, there is an entire upper floor, middle floor, a lower floor and tunnels. Yep there are tunnels under there and they are there for a reason. This is why I start over because each time I learn something new about the game. Turns out you will need a key to open a door, and another key to clear past the rubble to get the to tunnels. I don’t want to give out too many spoilers so if you have not played the game (YEAH RIGHT) then stop here. The rest of this post is about what I found. To those of you taking off and surfing on, see ya later!

Ok so once I had figured out that keys drop in this game and there are actually mini quests inside buildings and things to do, I really started to perk up. I grabbed the key off a bandit I killed (and this whole school has been taken over by them) and then unlocked what I needed to get to around on the 3rd floor where I found the leader of the bandits and she was armed with a machine gun. After a nice little gun fight in which I managed to cap her knees, I found a desk with a working computer terminal and a key. Turns out this group of bandits had been tunneling underground to try and break into the vault from underneath. I found this out by reading entries on the computer terminal. However, they dug too deep and awakened a hive of giant mutated ants. Not being one to shirk adventure, off I went to unlock the door that led to the mining tunnels.

I'm not so sure this is a good idea

Once I  got into the tunnels I shot up a few ants and worked my way back into the very dark areas of the mining operation and found clutches of eggs which I could loot for Ant Meat. Not the tastiest of options but if your health is low and you are out of stim paks you take what you can take. If Mel Gibson can eat a can of dog food in the Road Warrior then this is just a slight step down.

I worked my way in among the eggs and started looting them all when this horrible skittering noise started echoing all over the chamber, and I knew I had triggered a huge spawn of ants. Sure enough about 5-7 came streaming at me and I had to use all my ammo just to fend them off and take them down.

While I got XP for this, I ran out of ammo and really got nothing in return other than stacks of ant meat. I wish there had been SOMETHING down there to discover but all tunnels led to a dead end.

With all the bandits dead and nothing to search through, I decided I had had enough of the school and left the place, feeling good that for once I had explored it and finished it to my hearts content. I did come out of there with a lot of gear to sell, but unfortunately I need ammo now so it will be off to Megaton. I will let you all know how that goes later on. I may hit  up Empire Total War once more tonight and dive into that grand campaign as the Russians.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Chester Brock: Sims 3

Sims 3. For right now Chester is a wanna be politician. What am I talking about? A Sim has a lifelong goal in Sims 3, a list of the ultimate pinnacle of life that they want to strive for. Based on traits you pick you can manipulate this decision.

This all came about last Sunday night when I got Sims 3 for my better half so that she could experience the next level of complexity up from Farmtown or YoVille on Facebook. I asked her:

“How would you like to do all that stuff but control your entire life and more?”

She was sold pretty easily and unfortunately I had promised myself never to get sucked into another Sims title but yet here I went installing it on both machines and messing around with the game myself.

Originally my plan had been to create a sim that had the aspiration to become a published author. Before that my idea was to have a professional athlete so I could see how in depth the engine got with him becoming a star and having a lot of money and getting into trouble. I decided that I did not want to go that route and would pursue it later and made my first Sim a loner that wrote well and disliked large crowds and kids.

I started with a purchased furnished house and realized soon that that took way too much money out of my pocket and I should have gone with no furnishings and simply added to the home as I went along. The furnishings I started out with were a little lame and for the most part unnecessary. For example, in my main room I had a book case, a single seat chair, a two seat sofa, a kitchen table and two chairs. No TV, no computer and no means to write anything and actually contact the outside world. If I was going to be a shut in recluse I needed more access to the world outside digitally. My bedroom had two end tables and two lamps, way more than a single Sim needed. I started to sell off many objects to afford a computer and television and make room for a coffee table, where I would simply eat while watching TV.

This was all well and good except that I started to fall victim to the wrong traits I had picked. About half way in it dawned on me that I could in fact take a career as a politician then I started wondering if I could actually become mayor of the town my sim lived in. Well my traits were set up all wrong since he had been designed as an anti social grumpy puss it would not work for him to be a super smiley schmoozer like I would need to be if I were in politics.

In fact, my Sim hated kids so much that he actually would yell at the paper boy on a daily business. This in turn would cause the would be print hurler to run screaming away from my yard in terror but still give me a good chuckle on the inside. My Sim also had the nasty habit of going off on one particular Sim at the library that always let her screaming brat run around unattended. Needless to say on the friendship scale of things they did not get along.

With my sails down my idea boat started to run adrift and soon I found myself not focused on one career path and near broke. In the span of one week my stove caught fire and burned down during a waffle making fiasco, and then I was robbed of my shower one night by a thief that broke into my house. I called the police but in typical fashion they showed up late and before I knew it I was down a stove and shower. My hygeine score was plummeting so I had to replace the shower and I needed to eat so instead of resorting to quick meals from the fridge I got a new stove.

I honestly tried to become a writer I promise. I had increased my writing skill to 4 by hitting the library and using  my computer to practice, and was at the point that new options opened up when I selected my PC. I could now start a romance novel or a action book, but I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I landed a job at the capital building as a podium scrubber and my career in politics had begun.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

DDO: Questions a noob would ask

Ok, so after playing the game for about one week solid and not really advancing too fast, I had to hit up the newbie forums and ask a plethora of really dumb questions for things I just did not understand.

When I start a game I tend to look at the features and figure out if they actually work or if they are gimmicks. The more I learn about this game the more in depth I realize it is, and when I start a game I like to dig under the hood and see what makes it tick (just ask Hicks who I spam all day long in email).

This bag is not loaded with tricks

First issue I ran into was this “Bounty Bag” quest thing you can do. Basically, this is DDO’s answer to the daily quests that are popping up in MMO’s all over the web now.  What this is is a quest that will ask you to go talk to a particular NPC and then he will ask you to enter a dungeon that he is normally associated with. Very clever tactic actually by Turbine here. They added new content without actually having to make new dungeons. You run the same dungeon but have a chance to get a named NPC spawn and when you kill it or perform the daily task you return the bag for XP. Catch is: the named NPC does not always spawn. With no XP per kill in the game this makes it a hard sell, because some of these dungeons can be long and to not have the item drop means more grinding in a place you may hate. I tried one and my NPC did not drop, but at least I got good XP because you can repeat quests again in DDO. So while grindy, I do not mind this it beats grinding faction or some crap like that. Just be warned it is not bugged if you do not get your item.

Then I learned that the y were going away in Module 9. Ah well…

What is the deal with Tumbling?

Ever watch the neat trailers for DDO where all the people playing are somersaulting and rolling all over like a bad Power Rangers episode? I have and I wondered to myself: WHY? Does the game REALLY take that into account? Well yes and no. There is a difference between TUMBLING and moving out of the way it turns out and to test this I watched my nifty NERD O MATIC die roller that I have displayed on my screen when I play.

Sure enough, when I moved and attacked 3rd person shooter style I lost my +4 to hit and missed a lot more. When I sidestepped, or as I have it mapped, held SHIFT and moved side to side, I kept a +3 or sometimes +4 to hit on my die rolls. So yes the game DOES account for movement. Pretty slick engine. now as for tumbling and putting points into it, the most definitive answers I got were these (I am no expert so I will leave it for them to decide if this is right or not):
I have seen people TUMBLE over water, you do go faster. You only need TUMBLE for doing the Reaver Raid.  My advice, make sure your tumble skill is anything BUT not NA.  That way, if people cast tumble on you or you buy the tumble buff for 100 GP, you will minimize your damage in the Reaver Raid. If you truly want to role play a rogue then put points into tumble.

Tumble has 3 true levels of ability:
- You don’t have it, you make useless Bunnyhops
- You have invested 1 rank and make tumbles. Need a armor which doesn’t hinder you too much for that.
- You reach a 35+ total tumble modifier and make cool somersaults who cover a wide area of space to get away asap.

and one last mention
Tumble is one of those skills that didn’t really make a good translation to ddo. If you have the Feat: Moblity or a Mobility item on, tumbling is a more defensive way to get out of combat (While tumbling you have +4 AC)

So in short, do not worry too much about it but use tumbling to move fast and take a swing without a penalty. As far as I can tell it is not required to roll all around but it sure does look cool. The key thing about DDO in dungeons is not to get left behind or split up. Bad things can happen much like in pen and paper D&D. As a GM, I used to love picking off characters that split up from the main party. That was a sadistic pleasure of mine. Especially when you can make it creepy and tell the other players they can hear their buddy screaming in pain. Oh, umm, where was I? Ah yes.

What if I make bad design choices while leveling up

The next question I brought up was how do I know if I am not making a totally worthless character when I choose my stats and where to use my ability points. This is usually a worry for many online games that feature achievements, talent points, trees, traits and all that gimmicky stuff. In DDO, you need to watch where you put your stat points and how you spend things because it does follow D&D quite a bit in terms of what you can do at higher levels. Syp over at Bio Break covered the great 28 point or 32 point build in a blog post already, so I won’t go over that here. Instead I asked about this from a straight new player perspective and got some answers that made me feel ok about my barbarian thus far. Now if you are a cleric or a rogue, have fun. Your choices seem diverse and confusing at the same time.


Some responses I got to this were the following:
The only thing you can’t respec are your levels chosen and skill points. And the 1 ability point (str, dex etc) you get to add to your stats every 4 levels. You can reset your enhancements every 3 days at the class trainer…and you can switch feats at fred the mind flayer.

You can respec feats and enhancements, just not stat scores and class choices..You can gimp yourself by multi-classing poorly… One should understand the game fairly well before attempting a multi-class character…

I’ve made several 28-point builds that I am not going to delete.  I have fun playing and that is the most important part.  The more you dwell in the details of squeaking out every point of AC or damage, the more it becomes a “job” rather than a game.

My original 28pt char, made with no DDO experience, and faced with three years of nerfs, does just fine. Might not be up to some people’s standards, but I wouldn’t worry to much if I were you.

The responses were generally that if you pick a basic build template or at least read over your class forum, you should be ok.

Turn undead is awesome!

It works, you may fail at first but man when it works it is sweet. I won’t type it up, just watch my cleric in this video:

What does a guild do?

Well, fairly obvious but I noticed in DDO there is really nothing to making a guild. Then I noticed there was NOTHING TO A GUILD. Ugh. The only downfall about the community I have found so far is that guild’s are more or less not supported. The final analysis? Summed up well by a PM I got on the boards:
There are no guild vaults or really anything else that tends to tie anyone to a particular guild except the relationship with members. In fact, guilds in DDO are basically just a way to find groups more easily. Also guild chat can be entertaining… And for new players, they are usually a source of lots of free stuff. (As I’m sure you’re familiar with from other games, stuff that is awesome to a new player is completely useless junk to a veteran, so these gifts are win-win.)

I can do that again? OOPS!

I knew you could run quests over and over again, but I did not look into the deeper picture. This is a very instanced game, as it should be since it has DUNGEONS in the title, but I really didn’t understand why you would run the same thing over and over until I got my cleric to level 2 in about one hour. My barbarian took me two days. Why is this? Simple, I did not try the same quests over again on higher difficulty. So with my cleric (yes she is a female sue me) I decided to try this and good golly it worked. I got massive amounts of fast XP by doing each mission on solo, regular and then hard. I did try elite once. Once. I got the end and the boss mob was 3 levels above me (I was level one) and I just got destroyed.

Not only is this a good way to get XP you also can choose the rewards again. In many cases I didn’t not realize that there were say two different rings offered and especially for casters these work out well. So I would take one ring, then go back and take the second ring. I also had some mastercrafted plate mail drop for her which she put on to look pretty bad ass. So really, I actually skipped a lot of experience the first time through Korthos with my barbarian. The neat thing is I can go back if I want to but I think that perk ends at level 3.

Turn on the class loot option

Amazingly, I did not even know about this. In the options, under gameplay, you can toggle off or on the games smart loot system. Turn it on, and quest rewards are tailored to your character. Turn it off and you can get other items for other classes. What a great idea! I think it is on by default so I didn’t have to worry about it too much, but keep in mind this does not effect chest loot.

Well, those are some of the things I learned in just ONE day of research. If anything new comes up I will post it here next week. For now, I have some Dawn of War 2 to play.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dungeons and Dragons Online finally clicks with me

So over the course of last weekend when I was supposed to be playing the Aion beta I was not. Well, I did play Aion to be fair, however I stopped short Saturday and never logged back in after playing Thursday night all night. Due to the holiday and a busy schedule, I just did not feel like sitting there spamming hotbar icons and taking quest after quest in an effort to level up and have my character erased. This is called burn out guys and gals, and it has hit me hard. I am tired of MMO’s and if I sit at my computer, you had better keep me entertained and keep me involved or within 10 minutes I am off and back to the XBOX 360.

My love for MMO’s, the traditional kind,  has worn off and now in my gaming twilight I am looking for instant gratification and ACTION. I know I was coming down hard on the Champions Online beta and the first 10 levels of Aion but guess what: I was coming down hard on them because they offer nothing different! Hence, I was getting bored.

So imagine my surprise when Hicks, an occasional writer here, went back to Dungeons and Dragons Online and let me know how cool the beta was for the free client. I actually managed to install the beta client and test it out and the game seemed different. I don’t know how to put my finger on it but the game seemed to work better, it was brighter, more responsive and FUN. The store was dead on in it what it offered and it FELT like a good action oriented MMO the type of which we hadn’t seen since Tabula Rasa shut down.

Since that night I have not been able to log into the beta server to test it again (some account issue I think) but I did resubscribe to DDO to get in there and test out the new player experience and by GOD I LIKED IT. I actually liked it so much that any free time I had MMO wise was spent in DDO this past holiday weekend.

Now I am not going to go into a review or any of that stuff. If you want that other bloggers beat me to the punch already. Take a read over at Bio Break and look at Pumping Irony’s AWESOME newbie island write ups from back in November of 2008 (yeah, I am late on the DDO train).

Now DDO is a game that I bought when it launched and spent about 4 days in before trashing it. The reasons were the controls, the style of fighting and it wasn’t World of Warcraft. Common little issues that we have all been guilty of yes? At the time of release I was a WoW Head I admit it. The thought of mana and hit points not returning to me and having to actually click to SWING my weapons was foreign and frightful. Now however I love it. I am involved, I have to plan ahead for my rest breaks to get HP back, and the combat seems so much more visceral.

The primary issue I always had with the game were its really dumb controls. I come from the old school mouse control world where right click mouse button hold moves your freaking camera, and left click selects a target. Not in default DDO. For some reason they made right click swing a weapon, exactly like if you play Oblivion and walk around and swing but imagine it mapped to the wrong damn mouse button.

Whenever I would try to right click to talk to someone, or pick something up I would swing my weapon and my character would enter that dumb battle stance. I was so frustrated that I just could NOT rewire my brain to comprehend this new control scheme that I actually stopped playing.

I didn’t do the research on the game, I didn’t understand the leveling, I didn’t even get why I got no XP for killing monsters. I just flat gave up, wiped the drool off my desk and jacked back into the Matrix that was World of Warcraft and it’s shiny colors.

So I have no idea what clicked or what happened this time around but I am fairly sure it had 80% to do with Oblivion for the PC and the fact that it was on sale this weekend. You see, I always wanted to like Oblivion but despite the fact it had great content and really neat side stories I was bored to fucking tears with it. I always wanted Oblivion to be online because I liked the combat and how involved you were with fighting.

After I went in and REMAPPED my DDO controls the entire game just clicked and I became instantly addicted to it. Much like Guild Wars I liked that it was heavily instanced but since it was D&D it had flavor, it had some spice to the dungeons and it was heavily reliant on atmosphere and not geared toward PVP at the end game. DDO just felt “homey” to me where I always felt like a tourist in Guild Wars because I knew if I maxed out in that game I would just quit because I super SUCK ASS at PVP.

So DDO had a great new starter island added that when I tried it last year I really did not explore completely. I know most of you are thinking “but the game is so weird” but it really is not. Think of DDO as Oblivion online and you will go in and understand the game. Think of it as “I am going to DDO from WoW” and you will hate it. For me, along with the fact that it allows me to play in chunks of time, the atmosphere and the ability to get into dungeons after all this solo content they added has really picked the game up a notch.

Now since Aion has a limited beta schedule and I had pre ordered it already, I have a lot of time to get back into gaming and see all these things I have missed and I have to say I am having a blast. Not with just XBOX 360 titles but also with free to play games like Requiem or Jade Dragon. The problem is though that even these games are technically WoW clones. After a bit, I start to zone out and I lose interest because lets face it we all know where this is going.

Not DDO though. DDO is a WEIRD game and it is weird because it has mechanics we as MMO players are not used to. Some basic facts follow.

Yes, you do not get XP per monster kill. You get it for finishing an adventure.

Yes you do not regenerate health and mana during an adventure. You need to watch it and time how you use the rest shrines.

NO you will not get uber weapons and armor drops, you must get to the chest at the end of a mission and see what is there.

YES rogues have a purpose other than to get owned by AOE in raid groups like in World of Warcraft.

No you cannot charge forward in a dungeon and expect to live.

Yes there are traps and puzzles to think about.

No you do not level fast and leveling is very odd since you have ranks within levels to clear before you actually level (think of them as EQ2 mini dings and that will help many).

Yes the game does encourage people hanging out in taverns.

Yes the class builds are odd and you can multi class.

Yes combat is twitchy but not to the point that you have to have a Street Fighter type combo menu memorized.

All these things that scared me off before are now a breath of fresh air and I wonder if Turbine is really marketing this game wrong. I think they went after a DIKU loving crowd and failed miserably to meet their target audience. Oh sure, there is an action bar and some hot keys on it. You WILL use them eventually (the first few levels on the newbie island are LAUGHABLY easy don’t let that fool you) but the core system of the combat is not a “push it and wait for it to refresh” type of combat system. You need to attack by swinging your weapon, try to trip your opponent, watch your facing, target mobs and actually AIM a bow to hit something. The game’s combat sounds lack some UMPH but it is still satisfying for me to swing a huge two handed axe and know that as long as the monsters are in front of me I will hit them in a big arc of damage. No AOE attack hotkey needed, no waiting for a cool down, no targeting. Just plain combat common sense. If many opponents are in front of you and you swing a huge axe sideways, you will clip some if not all of them. One drawback is you will click the mouse a lot if you are melee. I mean A LOT. However this is not much different than “A” button spam in a console title.

Archery is a little different. You need to target and aim and then shoot to really hit the enemy. This also makes it very satisfying when you line up a shot from far off and hear the nice THUNK when the arrow hits the mark and you see a damage number go up. Want extra fun? Turn on die rolling and watch and see what you roll when you shoot. Roll a natural 20 and sure enough you will crit on screen. This is a lovely nerdgasm moment that has to be seen and felt to understand.

Here are some combat videos I uploaded to my You Tube account over the weekend. Think of this as a short intermission before my rambling continues:

Watch for spoilers here but this video shows the dragon and final quest on Korthos Island:

I like this one because it really shows how archers can be great in this game. Far off shots and then as the mobs come in close arm your weapon and crush some skulls!

Abilities are sometimes only usable a few times per dungeon run, and expending them will mean that you need to rest before getting them back. You need to plan ahead and equip what spells you want to bring in as a caster, and not having the right ones can be embarrassing and detrimental to the party. You need to think on your toes and examine everything since there may be secret doors and areas of a dungeon that if found will give you more XP upon completion.

Best of all you can BREAK things. Crates, barrels, altars, coffins you name it you can smash it (unless it is part of the artwork). In these things may be cash, potions or other items just like Oblivion. In short DDO plays like an XBOX 360 role playing game and you can even use a gamepad with it. I like this system now and it has me hooked. Another great thing is the ability to run dungeons over again even after you have finished the initial quest. I can hop online, do something for 20 minutes and get out without wasting my entire night. Sure, there are longer dungeons that require more people but the solo content is right on par with my experience in a console title that lets me save the game. I have the added bonus with DDO though of meeting up with my friends (if I can get them to play) and adventuring.

Overall I have been pleasantly surprised in the changes in the game (especially the hirelings which saved Hicks and I during one mission where we were rushed by 200 kobolds) and look forward to unlocking and purchasing extra adventures when the free to play RMT model goes live.

The newbie island of Korthos had enough content to easily get me to level 2 if you READ and do not blow through it. Many people do one or two quests and don’t look around and realize that after a bit you unlock the gate that goes out to the rest of the outdoor area: the huge island itself wherein lies many other dungeons and kill tasks and some great long distance archery combat.

There are issues with the game sure, but honestly I just wanted to blog about my experiences I am not a person paid to review games. A blog is for what you do and to talk about adventures to me so that is what I have done here.

I guess the best thing about DDO going free is that people no longer have an excuse to ignore it. I agree that the monthly price when it launched was a bit of a joke, but now there is a ton of content and some good perks to think about maybe subscribing when the F2P model goes live.