Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Age of Conan - Directors Letter answers "some" questions

A letter from the new Director of Conan was posted on the forums yesterday.
It lays out the progress of the game and gives a heads up to what is coming down the road...

The letter is not the usual Funcom with some huge promises and statements of success, and even lays out some problems they see with the game...

"One of the issues we have been working on in that regards is the limited budgets that were originally assigned to the in-game items. It was always the intention that Age of Conan would not be a game where items would be the deciding factor in encounters. This meant though that the statistics available for items, and their actual effect on your character, was simply too slim. The items do scale within very limited ranges and have quite a limited effect on your characters abilities, and this I feel we need to do something about. When we sat down and analyzed the way this worked and the impact it had on players actual sense of progression through the game we came to the hard choice that something had to change. "

Here is where the problem lies..

"Moving on to some things a little further out I mentioned"

Prefaces the first statement. What this means is anyone's guess.
A month, a year?
With this being one of Conan's largest issues, they may want to move this up.

Due to the games almost hectic and Action RPG like playstyle, you spend a lot of time fighting, and as such, you expect maybe some loot that is fun to play with.
This is not the case though.
Items like armor and weapons are rare, and ones which are fun (has stats that are worthwhile per se) is few and far between.

This statement receives the brunt of this feeling of limited loot with a ton of responses in that same thread PLEADING with Funcom to get some new armor styles into the game.

Also mentioned in the same letter...

"Another aspect which has popped up in the forums recently is whether we are going to do a server merge or not, and I can today confirm that we are actively working on an approach to merge servers, both in Europe and North America. It’s important for us to ensure the best gameplay experience for you all, and more healthy populations on each and every server will make sure we maintain healthy communities for the game in the future. Still, there are many complexities involved in this, and we want to ensure that everything happens as fair and streamlined as possible. That work has now started, and we are naturally making sure that guilds and players can get to new servers in the best possible way. We will come back with more info on this, but I hope that this will serve as a positive injection to the social scene in the game."

Not something you wish to see within the first 6 months. But, Funcom brought this upon themselves as well.
They got zerged on launch. The amount of people who bought and logged in was quite huge. And to compensate, Funcom opened 10 NEW servers, which I felt was way too many.
They could have made queues and seen if the population held.
And not having fixed the game beyond Tortage also hurt them, and the bleeding of customers at the beginning due to shallow content also damaged these servers populations.

Instead, after 6 months, they are announcing merges, which so many see as a death wish if anything.
And what is funny is quite a few servers have become the noted login servers (Set and Cimmeria to name a couple for PvE and PvP respectively) which actually have rather large pops right now.

So, right now, Age of Conan has a new Director who is commited and willing to make the changes needed to make a successful game (he was the one who took over Anarchy Online and many credit with fixing that game).
And as has been seen by a dedicated set of gamers, that the game appeals to a specific type of player.
Could AoC find a niche like EQ2 and LOTRO?

Or, is it too little too late?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Age of Conan vs. WAR - All in the mentality

I was cruising some blogs this morning and ran into one which was originally an Age of Conan blog.
But, like so many of us, the frustrations of Funcom brought the blogger to the conclusion that they could not go on.
He left his guides intact for the classes he had worked with, and started to stray...

But, as time went on, this blogger stepped into WAR, and came back with this decision...

"I’m not having fun…"

So, I started to wonder how someone would NOT have fun in WAR. What type of mentality is it that compels us to play one style over another of MMO.

As the blogger says later in his post...

"I’m seriously considering rerolling one of my favorite classes on one of the popular servers in Age of Conan"

Which happened to me as well.

Some of his issues with WAR are..

  1. ‘Old School’ one monster at a time PvE - Basically like we have grown use to in past MMO's, you face one monster, maybe two, as otherwise, you WILL die. As well, these one off battles can take minutes to complete. Placement and movement, and massive battles are the norm in AoC and another favorite...Guild Wars. Four or more mobs is not uncommon in either game. You need to make split decisions on who to attack, and keeping yourself out of AoE effects, etc.
  2. Public Quests are just another grind - Well, this is another way to give you a quest, but you still do the exact same thing...so, this really changes nothing of the game atmosphere or mechanics.
But, what is also of interest ...examples of other player comments for that blog post were interesting.

"I agree. I was unfairly critical of play on Age of Conan, however the game (Warhammer) is boring… and ugly. When I play Conan, (or) even LOTRO, the(se) games (are) is fun, the music pulses and it is good. Have a good party and things rock. Warhammer just is bland."

"I was getting a little frustrated with the lack of content in AoC, and went back to LOTRO because I heard they finally got some population again. I used to love that game but our server became deserted and I wasn’t about to pay for a toon transfer.
Despite the beautiful landscapes, after AoC my toons (in LOTRO) just felt retarded in combat and I used to think they looked cool, now their bodies just seemed awkward looking to me. I came back to AoC at least till I see where the new management takes it"

But, some alternate comments as well

"AoC was rather bland at the lower levels and then it just seem to dump you with no direction. I’m having a blast so far in WAR you should get it another try after a couple weeks after launch!"

"Maybe try a different class if you aren’t having fun?
The scenarios change dramatically at Tier 2. In Tier 2, I’ve played CTF, Smear the Queer, and this weird King of the Hill/CTF Hybrid scenario."

And then one who does not know which way to go..

"I was getting a little bored with WAR until I tried a Marauder, which I enjoy immensely.
That said, I just re-activated my AoC account. Not sure if I will go back to my HoX, the ToS or roll up that Bear Shaman I always wanted to "

So, what is it that compels these alternating attitudes. And why do those that try AoC, eventually end up back there.
And what is it about WAR's game mechanics that some enjoy, and others are "Leery" about.

Combat, visual quality, and the grind mentality seems to be key here.

Maybe some are not for the level grind anymore.

As an example, the wife and myself have been less worried about our levels, and having more fun just killing mobs, and getting loot. We did the same thing in Guild Wars.

I think we are of the Diablo "mentality".

And the WAR mentality is the "grind" aspect to level and gain reknown...I call it the "WoW" effect.

Do you have an idea of what it is that compels you to play your game of choice?
Can you figure out which mentality you are?

Age of Conan - Destiny of Tortage complete

After 12 hours of played time, Tetlana my Necromancer has left the island of Tortage and headed to her homeland.

As I stated, I tried to continue story lines as much as possible, and avoid doing standard quests. There was a lull during Level 14 and 18. You could go at 19 to complete the final part of the story, but I followed several regular quest lines from 18 to 19. This took me to level 20 total.

Anyone who at least would purchase the game box would get quite a bit of play out of AoC, and the beginning area is incredible. Many cutscenes and story originality abounds.
The trading of the blood of a whore from virgins blood for one quest as you climb a volcana is quite amusing.

Anyways, upon reaching the mainland, I started to be a little concerned again over how gorgeous the armor of the NPC's was compared to my own. Even though you can see from the image below, the robe I get upon the final quest of Destiny is quite lovely. The fact that so many variations of belts and even the "choker" which shows up when you wear them is truly an added bonus.
But, then so does everyone elses same robe...(they did that quest too ya know)

I had read there were changes to how the Auction House was working in AoC now with the last patch, and I decided to see what people were selling.
It just seemed to be dull robes or silk outfits.
But, I used the new search to narrow down to rarity and level, and found something of interest. All of the outfits were different..
So, browsing this new selection which was quite inexpensive, I put together this new outfit.


As to our duo (husband and wife team) we have moved ahead with completing all of the island standard quests, and are down to the last 3 in our books. I will report more upon their adventures soon.
This duo though is on hour 20. So, the time difference is quite noticeable.
I am really fascinated over how many fun quests there are on Tortage that probably so many people miss. Not just that but money to be made, as the drop rate is huge. So much so that we keep running through several sections on the island and see people leaving bags behind.
We of course thank them for doing this as we grab some more loot.
One area known as the Acheronian Ruins has a quest that takes you to the top of a huge pyramid, and we are talking...HUGE.
The height is so realistic that I was getting dizzy thinking of falling off the edge.
Anyways. We can unequivocally state that within the game, there is fun to be had whether solo or grouped.
The fact the wife wants to still play is also telling to me.
Something is quite compelling about Age of Conan, and the game has so much going for it.
The audience is going to be key for Funcom now.
Wonder if they can appeal to the right crowd.
I even wonder if they know who their crowd is (all I know is it is niche at this time...)

My confidence is still shaky in regards to Funcom being committed. No new announcements of further patching or content and the Testlive server is dead. But, the new director just joined 2 weeks ago. It could be a total change of direction going on at this time.
Patience will be key now.

Ok...later and thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

LOTRO - Steefel decides he likes the taste of foot

I am not quite sure where this guy thinks he is.
I try to grasp what knowledge he has that the rest of the MMO audience does not.

According to a new interview at Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Steefel has this to say.

"It’s arguably one of the top MMOs in the industry right now – we’ll see what happens with the new games that are coming out, but probably the second most prominent MMO game right now. It continues to grow in quality and size and the players that we have are great, worldwide. Really interesting community worldwide, even more committed in some respects than some other communities in other games."

As I have said before. Nothing more proud than being #2.

Steefel goes on with nice little tidbits like
"We have been building these kind of games for fourteen years – this is our fourth one. We got it right – as in, totally right – on our fourth try."

For who exactly? You? sure thing...for the MMO audience? You may need some more research there.

He goes on...
"The other thing you do is try and figure out how you can give people play sessions that are not as deep commitment wise – hence the focus on solo play."

That is why you make a MASSIVELY MULTIPLAYER game.

I am not one to worry for one's marketing lingo. But, Steefel seems really clueless. Or he feels the need to make this game something more than it is.
There is no real data that says this game is the second most "prominent" game. The discussion on the net and the gaming world is minimal at best.

I really hope Steefel has something special here, but I do not hold up hope for Turbine games. All have disappointed me in some shape or form, or for the mass audience. (DDO and AC2 being two fine examples of less than stellar titles...Turbine is averaging a 50% success rate right now...)

Can someone just put a muzzle on this guy? Paul Barnett looks intelligent compared to this guy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Interesting games we do not play - Ryzom

Since a discussion from a while back about innovation in our MMO's, we left it to Tobold to chide all of us on why we still get the same old mechanics.
His statement? Simple...
"Most game companies produce games for the money, not because they hope to become critically acclaimed starving artists"
Well, thank God bands like U2, or Death Cab for Cutie, and movies like Juno or 40 year old Virgin gave up.../snide off
Who needs "Critically acclaimed". We need to make money.
That is why we get
Rush Hour 3, Britney Spears and Reality TV shows.

Van Hemlock got a hold of this, and saw Tobold mention one game...A Tale In The Desert.

Van has presented his adventure within this game by taking Tobolds challenge of trying something new.

Based on this, I thought I would go in search of the other "creative" games we just do not look at or play.
First up?

Saga of Ryzom

What do you know, an Indie darling, that just does not seem to want to die.
Guest starring a gorgeous graphics engine, roleplay features, unique crafting (consensual PvP...uh oh).

Back in service, and even free to trial.
Why should people check this game out though?

Bullet points ahead
  • Known as the Living Planet- The world changes constantly. Not quickly, but like a real world with certain variations in locale. Creatures migrate, trees grow, why there are even seasons.
  • Battle hordes of creatures - Due to this living world, at anytime creatures can swarm out of nowhere. 100's if not 1000's of creatures can swarm small cities and villages. People MUST team up to survive.
  • Choose your class path - The skill-based action tree allows you to gain experience in fighting, magic, crafting and/or foraging, and you can also customize your own spells and special attacks (thousands of possible combination's!). In so many words, YOU choose your path, and not let it be decided by a Class name (like Tank, Heal, etc.)
  • Create your own weapons - Although NPCs sell basic equipment for characters of all levels, high quality and enchanted items are only provided by player crafters. Even at very low skill levels, crafters can begin creating items with stat increases on them, and the bonuses (extra Life, Sap, Stamina, or Focus) they can place on equipment only get better as the crafters get more skilled.
  • Live events System - Event managers run various scenarios at different times so that you do not live within a static world all of the time. This coincides well with the living planet philosophy,
I could go on.

So, why do we not play?
  • No Elves or Dwarves - We do not associate with the races. They are unique to this biosphere, and as such, we just do not seem to know where to place these races within our visual acuity.
  • Consensual PvP - I still think this is a non-seller issue. A lot of people want full PvP or Factional PvP, but consensual is really not a need for most players. It is simply a diversion...nothing more. Supposedly the other forms exists, but it is either hard to reach (open PvP is underground and only select people may enter) or on set battlegrounds.
  • What is my role? - People have not taken well to games that allow such a non-structured class system. We feel the need for the Tank/Spank/Heal it up kind of gameplay. This goes back to not accepting innovation of any sort.
  • Who are these guys? - No one knows the company and cannot relate to another product they have done. Blizzard, Mythic, NCSoft, etc...all known for their work. And now, a conglomerate of people who wanted to keep this game alive are in charge, no major company has a hold of development.
I am sure I could come up with more. Like the word "Mature" is used to describe the community. LOTRO, DDO, Vanguard and AoC are also noted as "mature" games.

Really, there is no real reason not to play this. But, we do not. And as such, even though the game stays afloat, just how long can it survive.

Why not be your own judge though and just give it a shot.
(PS: The manual is somewhat required as a lof the game does not use convential MMO commands...another strike I am sure).

I have not tried the game since its relaunch, so I plan to take a test drive and see how I feel..
More as I check it out for YOUR enjoyment (and either my pleasure or my pain!)

"Look Mama, isn't that what they once called PvE?"

The year? 2015. The place? The Museum of Gaming.

Wilhelm over at Ancient Gaming Noob has a write up about what I have referred to in the past as a "Set Group".
Tipa and Stargrace also have this with their Nostalgia guild.
Basically the group has a select set of characters that adventure together, level together on a set day and or time.
This is an awesome concept.
I have tried this several times with success in the past, but lately, not so much.
Thanks to the wife I always have a set partner in game though.

But, this is not about grouping.

In the post Wilhelm states...
"But this Saturday night will be the first real test.

Will Warhammer be a move towards the PvP world of which I wrote just over a year ago?

Will our group find Warhammer fulfilling not only initially, but over the longer term?

Will battles stay fresh?

Will the progression be worthwhile?

Will we stay enthusiastic?

Will the vagaries of PvP challenges fit within our time budget?

And will PvP make for good copy when it comes to the Thursday instance kill group summary post?"

Studying on this reminded me of a discussion I have had before.
In his comments I state...
"maybe PvP is the game everyone has always wanted."

As I go over each of the various sites from my RSS lament of yesterday, those that are discussing WAR, I finally realized what was missing.

Great stories of awesome encounters.

Again, Wilhelm in the same article..
"There is certainly no promise of smooth PvE progression, no new dungeon to crawl every Saturday night, no guided tour of the lands. This is no slick amusement park experience. This is no Azeroth."

And I heard the chimes. The tolling of the bell.
PvE may be history in the MMO world.

And it would make sense.

Warhammer brings about a gaming experience for those playing and the focus of the game does not need a true story.

The story or lore is secondary.

Tobold also commented on this earlier this month...
"One problem with lore is that MMORPGs play on persistent worlds. Persistent not only in the sense that the world is still around when you log off; but also in the sense that monsters respawn, and five minutes after you rescueing the damsel in distress she'll be in captivity again and waiting for the next hero to free her. Many quest texts aren't exactly great fantasy literature. And even the best told story quest lines suffer from often being set up in a way that you are doing parts of them in between a dozen other quests, and by the time you get to the next part of the quest chain you don't remember the previous part any more"

He names two examples.
LOTRO and AoC.
And based on their sales or success, we can assume that the story and lore are really secondary.

The popularity of WoW is based on raids, end game, and as of late...PvP.
WAR, RvR and PvP.

LOTRO is PvE, EQ2 is PvE...

Tabula Rasa launches with a weak consensual PvP system. Where is the game now?
Tabla Rasa is not a sucky game, but due to the thought of an underlying story, the overall game suffers. It does not help it tried to copy WoW mechanics and put them in space.
Of course there are other issues with each of the above games, but their main focus is PvE.
AoC will try to lie to you and tell you it is PvP, but why focus on such a major player experience in the way they have. Why create awesome voice overs and great cutscenes for people who will hit 1, 1, 1 to bypass these excellent sequences?

They over reached. Should have focused on the PvP if they wanted it.

Same with LOTRO. You hear very few running around lauding the awesome PvMP. It was not the games focus. Many a lorist will yell at you for it.

Story is not important anymore for the player. The experience of the game itself is the key.
Stories may have to be relegated to the single player experience where it allows changes to your world. The persistence of the world stays intact.

My comment on Wilhelms blog sums this up overall...
"Will all future MMO’s believe that there is more money in PvP, competitive gameplay, and will just blow off PvE."

I think so...do you?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

FEEVY getting some major feeds

On the right I am using a tool called FEEVY that takes RSS feeds and creates the really cool avatar looking list of blogs.
It is an awesome little widget and is easy to use. It also gives the updated feed on top action with a brief synopsis of the feed which I like as well.

Anyways, I have been going nuts and adding a ton of new ones. It is still all about the games baby...but some discuss so many subjects it could get wild.
I really did some major hunting today and have put in some great blogs (but man still a ton playing WAR as well...lol).

Anyways, if you wish a blogroll add, let me know, and I will get to reviewing.

Now, back to looking at games...

Bildo brought up in comments one game I am looking forward to that is not an MMO (yea) but is multiplayer (?)...
It is along the lines of the husband/wife style of gaming...
It is

Fable 2.

Seems it has same screen co-op gameplay. I have not had one of those in ages, and I am a little excited.

Nothing more fun than cuddling with the wife on the couch for some slaughtering of random mobs.

Fable 2 has male/female avatars as well, so who knows WHAT may happen?

Anyways, enough on that for now...thanks for stopping by.

Everquest 2- Game Update 49

It has been while since I have looked back at this game.
The wife and myself really enjoyed our time there, and spent 8 months grinding levels.
But, we never made it past 50.

Luckily the new update offers faster progression, and this interests me. I have yet to 100% end game most of my MMO's due to the tedious level process and the derivative nature of the questing.

EQ2 held us thanks to the variety of things to do.

But, money ran out for us quite quickly, and we felt the long tedious grind to get cash.
People have stated over and over how easy cash is to get. But, I can only assume that they have found some easy button.
I harvested and sold a lot of mats, but that is what the game became for me after so long...Log on, harvest or craft, log off.

I needed more excitement.

Anyways, now with an easier level curve, this could really be the ticket to get maxed at least.

But, another issue was how the game ran. For such a "new age" engine, it became doggier as I upgraded my hardware.
When I got Age of Conan and saw that it ran BETTER than EQ2 (with the looks to boot) it became hard to continue playing.
Now, with GU 49 there is discussion of Dual Core support. This could really make the game run more efficiently.

So, two bonus items for EQ2 now. I may have to reload.
I am hoping another one of those cool "freebie" months comes along. So, I will try to hold off for now, but I will be keeping my eye on these changes.


World of Warcraft - Wrath of the Lich King

So, who expects this to sell 4 times as many copies or even more than Burning Crusade?

What does the expansion really offer? New Class? New Zone? Update Graphics? Is there more?

How come I have to buy Burning Crusade to play this expansion?

Will there be an All-in-One package for all 3 titles for one 49 or 59 buck price point?

Speculate below.

Lamenting the loss of my RSS

Well, it seems the RSS feed on my Google Reader is now being filtered out.
I am going in and archiving so many sites...

Why is that you ask?

The end of variety.

It seems every site on my list is now discussing Warhammer Online.

And it gets monotonous.

I still have a few throwbacks (Tipa, Stargrace, Kill Ten Rats- even though they are slowly verging on monotony) plus a couple others.

But some who really discussed so many various topics are now withering away and turning into a WAR only blog (example : Tobold).

This was to be expected. But, I just needed to express my disappointment.

For now, true discussion is gone, and now it is all about WAR.

It seems my list is shrinking, and makes for a boring day of reading.

I bet once World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King launches, things may get spruced up again..

Guess I better add some "Political" blogs. Controversy and variety will be rampant there I bet.

Anyone have some other suggestions for alternate reading?

Age of Conan - Following Destiny

As I have previously discussed, the wife and myself are trying to play the opening area of Conan as a normal MMO, and not with the "Single Player" Destiny quest.
By doing this we extend the area and do not have to split up to complete a separate story line.
I knew this would affect us time wise and it shows as we have played 11 hours to reach level 17.

How does this compare to having a Destiny?

As I like to have an alternate in game to collect cash, and do menial tasks for my main, and I really wanted to play with a pet class, Tetlana was born.
She will progress through the game following the main Destiny story to see how long it will take to complete Tortage.

I have another advantage here for this not being so "familiar".
Having left the game within the first 30 days, I had focused my time for one class, as I needed to see what the later game entailed.
Knowing Funcom had really dropped the ball, I was not going to create a mess load of classes. So, in actuality due to this decision, I had only played one of the 3 Destinies available.

So, this storyline has some fresh perspective, and allows me to try this test without getting annoyed too much.
As I play, I try to stay in the Destiny stories as much as possible. I only will do regular quests as needed to get to the next level for the Destiny quests.

There is a huge difference so far. I am at 3.5 hours and have already hit level 14. So, as XP and rewards go, doing the Destiny is more rewarding for the Single player.

I honestly think if Funcom could have focused more on this PvE section of the game and reduced the levels, a lot more satisfied players would be still adventuring in Hyborea.
I do not know how many times I have read in guild chat "Do the voices stop when I leave Tortage?"

Sadly they do.

But, more has been added. Several now talk in the main cities when you arrive (which is good, as some of the quests there are kind of neat. For example as an Aquilonian, you have a debate with a Priest of Set about the evils of their land and their God.)

For now, I am satisfied with the game since the performance changes, and will continue until something else of interest comes along.

More on the Destiny/Non-Destiny as I continue.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Lord of the Rings Online - Uh...ok

A new image from LOTRO: Mines of Moria.

LOTRO meets Soul Caliber (courtesy Worthplaying.com)


Gold Sellers - How do you defeat them?

Myself, I have no issue with Gold Sellers.
I know so many do.

But, really, what do they do but eat up the economy.

If you play the game as is, do you really need an economy? Is the economy such a needed commodity to play your MMO of choice?

I digress. What I guess we need to ask is..is there a way to eliminate the Gold Seller?
There are many facets of the MMO that could be changed to get rid of these nuisances.
Lets see how these play out...

A strange phenomenon has been noted in relation to Gold Sellers and in game Auction Houses.

Lets take some popular games that have an AH, and note something..
Do a Google search for the terms "Game name" and gold

For example:
WoW gold - 13.6 million pages (to be expected)
WAR gold - 13.1 million pages (Note the huge amount of sites already)
Or how about smaller games
LOTRO gold - 3.5 million
AoC gold - 3.5 million

Now, take a game without an AH

Guild Wars gold - 1.5 million pages

That is still a lot of pages. But, it does show a trend of AH in game and the relation of gold sellers.

Bind on Pickup - All color coded items should be BoP. Period.
I know this sucks. But, if the developer would take just a moment to make sure items that drop correlate to the class, and make them BoP, we would see less of a need for gold.
This could also kill social interaction. But, we do not know yet.

Now, another option may be make color coded items non-saleable, but tradeable.
This could bring back the social atmosphere. And make it so trade for something whether it is mats, or other items. And NOT for cash.

Create a breakables system to remove the need to buy mats.
All items in Guild Wars are breakable to some core components. Make THESE items (white class for example) break down into components for crafting if needed.
Most people pay for mats as they do not want to spend the time harvesting. Thus, some resort to gold sellers.
So, make it EASIER to get the items needed.

Force friending to trade.
You cannot announce yourself to another unless you know their name. Of course remove searchable databases for players.
This could cut into social interactions. But, this would not include "say" or "ooc". These could be open for anyone, which as we know, we can turn these off in most games.

These are a few off the top of my head.
But, do we know if this could work?
Do you have any ideas?
Voice them in comments....


Warhammer Online - Strange Coincidence?


So, reports of gold farmer bannings was reported by Quite a FEW SITES Yesterday.

What really struck me is this took place on the 22nd of Sept.

I then wonder if this has any correlation...?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Must nOT STRAYYYYyyyy....ah, ok...TV

Alright, alright...OMG, I just had to do this.

Anyways, this year sees a plethora (mm...love that word..) of new Sci-Fi shows coming, with some major cred behind them as well.
I want to make sure to throw out a shout, about these and ask that you put your DVR's into overdrive, or watch religiously...as this is some great stuff..

This show has gotten some flack due to its premise being very close to X-Files. Not only that, it is a JJ Abrams piece, who I think is incredible. But, JJ also has received criticism by sticking to some semi generic formulas and show mechanics (no he does not make MMO's, but would probably sell a ton if he did..).

An Evil Corporation? Check.
A new ingenue for his series? Check.
Really cool 3d TITLES (for instance it is used for the names of cities)? Check.

But, if anything is done right in ALL JJ Abrams shows is this. Weird science abounds, cool effects, and most importantly?
You feel for his players. You feel for the Father/Son issues.
The main leads loss of her loved one, and so on.
Luckily he has decided to downsize his cast, which has been an issue for JJ.
This should narrow his focus.
This will REALLY build up these main players, instead of the huge casts of Lost and Alias where too many stories are involved.

The episode two alien stomach crawl and the results after lead to some creepy fun.
Give this one time to grow on you. You will be glad you did.

Amanda Tapping from Stargate gets her own series on the Sci Fi network.
And it is a doozy.
An ageless immortal who keeps track of all the little beasties of our world...
To protect them!

Oh yeah.

A unique item is this was based on a web series (webisodes) and all backgrounds, effects, EVERYTHING was green screened. Minor props were used and thats it.
Now, whether they continue this path is unknown, as I have no more info for the new series.
It has been noted that as the series progresses, we will find that most of these "beasties" are from various literary works, or mythology.
For example the launch webisode dealt with a certain time traveler, who as we meet him in Victorian times, resembles a certain "Jack the Ripper".
This looks to be quite fun, and I anxiously await this launch.
Oct. 3...be there

Legend of the Seeker
One of my favorite picks. Based on the set of novels from Terry Goodkind Sword of Truth series. It is masterminded by the awesome Sam Raimi.
The team on the production is the same who did Xena and Hercules. YUM!
From what I have heard though the tongue has been removed from the cheek, so this will be a more serious and well produced series.
The cast is full of newer players who are a great looking cast, with special effects to dazzle.
And really, how long has it been since a "Fantasy" series has been on TV.
This is in syndication, which is hit or miss though, as syndicated series have not had much success since Herc or Xena.
Once we see Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi in an episode then geek nirvana will be reached.

Watch for this in November.

Nerd -a-vision at its finest folks...
Make sure to check these out..


Warhammer Online - Favorite quest of the day

Kill 1,000,000 servants of Chaos

Monday, September 22, 2008

West Karana's Tales of WAR brings in a refugee

As we are aware, Tipa has been plying us with some valued information on the mechanics and inner workings of WAR.

Each piece is full of facts and figures, with some awesome excel charts and powerpoint presentations to shock and awe us who read her blog daily...

We ALL love Excel and Powerpoint.

Ok, I lied about the great data she presents. Also about that love...maybe that is just me.

Anyways, I just had to share a piece that came out of the blue in her comments for the piece.
Seems someone maybe is not as enamored of WAR, and really lays it on the line...

A commenter by the name of Fuan, who really needs a blog, had this to say...

"I know you meant this as satire, but I still think you’re giving WAR too much credit. Just mentioning public quests is sure to generate some sort of positive publicity. As much as I tried to avoid the hype surrounded WAR, and I thought I did a good job doing it, I’m still severely disappointed having purchased such a shallow, linear, tedious and contrived world. I was looking forward to it based on the few blog posts I couldn’t avoid that extolled the virtues of open groups, public quests, etc."


There is more, and I will leave it for you to read.
But, again, the much vaunted and highly publicized "Grouping" mechanics got another swing taken at it today.

Many people will not be happy with every game they play, but Fuan did sum it up pretty good also..

"Sorry if I sound bitter, but it’s hard to avoid the hype and not get excited when everyone is calling WAR a WoW killer. At best, it’s a feeble attempt to capitalize on a very, very small part of WoW’s success while adding in some theoretically great additions that end up being mediocre at best."

I do not think anyone really thought of it as a "WoW killer", but it does have some solid ground at least. But, as well, a many disgruntled player seems to be lurking out there for every fanboy salesman who has a blog and all they can discuss is WAR.

I stated this before on other comments, but it seems since Vanguard, all developers are giving up, and just trying to "compete".
And not with WoW it seems.

Everyone wants that #2 spot.

Steefel thinks they can get it with LOTRO, but I really think WAR will hold it for a while.

Until we see some innovation though...REAL innovation..all anyone can hope for, for now...is to be #2.

Warhammer Online - Better Grouping = Dead Silence

Reading a post from MMOMENT of ZEN, there seems to be a minor chink in the "innovative" grouping mechanics of WAR.

Lars postulates..
"In WAR, people join randomly, do their own thing, and drop out when they feel like it. Of course, this varies from group to group: I've joined friendlier groups that did talk a little, but the majority of them are silent. Its worse than silence. Most of the groups were unorganized and everyone acted as individuals; even though we were "grouped" from the game mechanic's perspective, we were still playing on our own. Even if someone tried to talk the group into utilizing a strategy, maybe by helpfully suggesting that someone (not me) pull (because I'm a Bright Wizard and fall apart in one hit) and that we pull maybe at most one monster at a time and focus on it instead of everyone running around pulling all fifteen champions all at once which might be a bad idea because we have no freaking healers or if we do they haven't found the heal button yet , people went about things their own way with no reply and no acknowledgement that they had even the slightest understanding of basic English."

He goes on (I hope it is a he, seems I cannot tell a guys name from a ladies../embarrassed...ok, checked profile...it is a HE) to say..
"but Warhammer feels really, really quiet compared to other MMOs"

But, the game is suppose to be all about community and grouping and love fests and peace signs from billows of smoke from various funny looking cigarettes (oh wait...that was MY past..).

This proves to be an interesting issue.

More grouping means people can form parties without the need to communicate. Makes me wonder how this fits into the PuG mentality.

Of course, the preformed groups (Guilds) I am sure do not have to deal with this. Good ole vent or Teamspeak helps.
Yet, how is the communication in what guilds are available for players being played up.
Since no forums exists in the official sense, people have to count on others advertising within the scope of fan based forums.

Is WAR maybe the game for the anti-social player?

It seems...according to X-Fire .....that the average playtime for gamers is 5.6 hours at a sitting or a day.
Compare this to 3.9 to 4.5 for AoC or LOTRO (as a matter of fact EQ2 ALSO has a large average of hours played at 5.6 per player. But the number of players is so low on EQ2, all it takes are a few to skew this horribly...).

This sure does raise questions of why the game is so quiet. Especially with the highly touted social features. Not only that, but a ton of people are playing. There is no doubt of that.

But, what is the psychological makeup of the majority at this time?

Could it be THIS is why it is so quiet?

Advertising...coming to an MMO near you

Listening to NPR this morning, a discussion of the Emmy's came up (surprise).
With listings of various winners of last nights awards.
One big winner was Mad Men on AMC.
Basically the show talks about big business and advertisers during the 60's.

This then segued into a piece on the new ways of product placement or called "Product Injection.
Advertising is finding it's way into the actual story of the show. "Organically" was the proper terminology they used.
The product is integrated into the story in some way, and actually mentioned or is part of the sets, etc.
For example: Mad Men had an episode where they were finding a way to advertise Heineken beer for women. Heineken paid for this spot, and the product was used profusely during the episode.

This takes me to the awesome show "Eureka" on Sci-Fi network where I felt it was quite "fun".
The story is that in this small town of Eureka, a large company, Global Dynamics, was losing money according to the DoD (Dept of Defense).
So now all projects are sponsored by "Degree" under arm deodorant to help finance their research.
Adding to this fun, regular commercials have been created and are playing on the station (and on the website if you click through above. you can see a banner). These commercials use a "AI" styled robot who is slightly goofy (like the Sherrif, the main character of Eureka) who is AMAZED over how well the deodorant works. All within futuristic settings.

Ok, so this is a long post and so far, I have yet to discuss the main topic.

How does this involve MMO's?

As of late we have seen the playfulness of our MMO's of choice using funny names or things that represent real world objects.
WoW now even has the Harley in game! (woot?).
But, we can see the execs, their brains trying to wrap around this audience who is NOT watching TV, and how they can sell their products NOW! within the MMO universe.

So, I got a hold of a memo from the "We do it betterz" advertising agency on how they plan to approach these MMO's of choice.
Look at some of these great idea's.

World of Warcraft - They will now have it so each food vendor will be advertised on the main map with a large "Golden Arch". People will eat Big Mac's to renew health, and drink "Coca Cola" to gain mana.
Their motto is "Over 10 11 million served in Azeroth"

Warhammer Online - Trying to play catchup, all dwarven females will be given red pig tails, and all male dwarves will be bearded (whats new) but will all have crowns.
Their motto is "But we grill ours, or if you wish we can get you a frosty"

Age of Conan - Now all clothing that you cannot seem to find in game will be sold at one store...Victorias Secret.
Their motto? "Told you we were mature...no really.."

LOTRO - Lately people have noticed strange new markings on their maps in game, but not too many know about them yet. They look mysteriously like Golden Arches.
Their motto is "We are going to be almost as big as those other guys. Call us No. 2"

I am still investigating, and will report when I have found more of these mysterious ways that advertising will be integrated in our MMO's down the road.

Age of Conan - Change our Destiny

As I noted previously, the wife and I have taken the path of not doing the "Destiny" storyline.
The single player aspect of it detracts from us playing together, and with so much to do on the island besides this story, we headed out in search of changing our destiny.

Using various quests and dungeons, over the last 3 days, we have been able to get to level 16 within a 10 hour span. Not only is this reasonable, it was quite fun.

Knowing that eventually we would need to get off the island, Shanra and Ethalos needed a plan. The Red Hand's spies were everywhere.
I enlisted the aid of an old colleague of mine, Jheren, to look into the mysterious character only known as the "Smuggler".
The "Smuggler" understood that some who fought the resistance were in slightly more danger than others and would be willing to take them to their homeland.
More danger existed upon our homeland than it did in Tortage, and he knew we may be needed elsewhere.
But, to find him, we need a code, a special code he had hidden.
A simple note was found that had clues of his location.
"In the south, the pelican sits above the docks, overlooking a boat of fish that it desired. Behind the Pelican secrets could be found."

Jheren headed south in Tortage and looked to the docks for answers. Upon arriving he surveyed the location intensely. Off to the left he noted a large building "overlooking" the docks.

Studying the building, Jheren finds an interesting surprise. A Pelican is beautifully painted upon the building. Now, he needed to decipher the clue even more.
"Behind" the pelican?
Jheren moves around to the rear of the building.

He finds a note tacked onto the back of the building. It reads about an abandoned warehouse in the NW corner of Tortage. It is signed...

"The Smuggler"

Jheren searches the various buildings and happens upon an old Abandoned Warehouse. He tries to be careful as some old filthy Pirates make their home near here. If spotted, he could be their next Booty!
A young beggar girl has made her home in this alley and eyes Jheren suspiciously, but then looks the other way as he enters the building.

Inside awaits the smuggler...


So far I only know that you may not attempt this quest to leave the Island until level 17. And we are almost there.
But, we still have a good bit of quests in our quest log, and we are still having fun since we entered the Underhalls for the first time.
The Acheronian Ruins also hold fun, and as an added bonus, we have a collections quest there, where we can get various "prizes" for a number of leather straps from Picts we kill.
We do know that we have gained some quite unique armor pieces and weapons since we have entered these two locations.
We are earning money as well. This is very important for us if we leave the Island.
So, the chance to change our Destiny still continues. We will see just how far we can progress with altering the fates of these characters.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Do we even like our games?

A thought occurred to me as I read a discussion on Man vs. Horse about some various MMO's and people playing for the first time.
Or if NOT for the first time, the first time for that game...

The article has several parts, and deals with two players entering trials for World of Warcraft, Eve Online and City of Heroes.

Their conclusion? City of Heroes won. But, it won for several reasons.

As noted.

"Ludo: But why was City of Heroes more fun? It’s basically the same as WoW, press 1, 2, 3. Rinse and repeat.

Dante: For a start, it’s a lot faster than WoW. You don’t level faster, but fights are faster, your powers recharge faster and your powers look cool.

Ludo: That is important actually, I liked smiting people.

Dante: Also, you’re actually saving people from the bad guys. Every NPC in that game was doing something.
There are guys sacrificing citizens to dark gods on hidden rooftops and stuff.

Ludo: Not just local wildlife wondering aimlessly about the place. It’s less obviously a game in that respect.

Dante: More immersion."

This specific line hits close to home for what I am thinking though.
"Ludo: So where’s the appeal? It’s got to be about the teamwork, rolling with a posse, dominating your foes. Being in a group, being in a guild."

So, why is it that a game where we do the exact same things over and over is so appealing to us. And not even that, but the fact that the mechanics are so much the same in these games.
The game has become a job. It surely can't be about the "fun"?

Ludo's comment that it is the "teamwork" spells it out.

Otherwise, we could play single player games for something more inviting, more satisfying and pleasurable.

Each month we fork out the cashola on a game that has us doing repetitive mechanics, but it is the friends we make along the way that really makes the difference.

But, why CoH which obviously does NOT have the population of WoW? You could find more friends in WoW?

Aesthetics played another key role.
"your powers look cool."

We want our game to look awesome. And this is where the change takes place.
We want friends, but certain people will be picky about their game.
They wish for the game to do something for them...
Whether it plays "faster" or looks "cool" are factors in game decisions.

If the game is repetitive, will we continue on when our friends are minimal in that game? Does this person want realism or do they want a stylized feel?

So many varying mindsets here.

I guess we got to see how this played out over the last week with people defending or hating on the new "MMO" on the block.
But, are people playing the game for the right reason? Are they playing because all the cool kids are? Or are they playing because they are having fun...

And by fun, I mean is the GAME fun or is it just the people who are fun?

Do they even like the game in the first place?

Time will only tell.

Maybe the market already had it's killer app (if anyone remembers this phrase from years ago), and all others are "wanna-be's". WoW being that killer app.

Until we see a real change in the market, we will not see WoW populations in any other game that is out now. No game has been able to attain such a mass market appeal.

We will only play what our friends play or play what looks "cool" to us for now. This has really split the community...

The major question we need to ask ourselves though is "Do we really like our game??"

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Age of Conan - Slideshow


When did the blogosphere become "The News"

WAR is everywhere.
At least that is what Journeys with Jaye proclaims.

She would be right.
It seems so many have become overly emotional with discussion and opinions.
Love, hate, all things that cover a relationship, now seems to be the single crusade of many a blogger.

Isn't that what a WAR is though?

We must give credit where credit is due.
A game comes along only once in a while that requires this type of commitment. Whether it is love or hate.

Warhammer Online is one of those games that either gains the zeal of the player or the rancor of the non-believer of the WAR philosophy...

Why fix what is not broken.

As Jaye states
"And in the past few days, we’ve become witness to a tag team blog-off about Warhammer Online that included references to Kool-Aid, Communist Russia, and the Bible. I don’t necessarily endorse the beehive-prodding strategy of Tipa (although her recent entries are hilarious and have become the only sparkling gem that’s emerged from this showdown), and I also disagree with going so far as to start a crusade against Warhammer fans. But at the same time, it’s slightly ridiculous that the same people over and over are making it personal, and rejecting any thoughtful criticism about this particular game."

She is right.It has really gone too far.
Since Age of Conan and the need for every blog to rant and rave over its issues, and then the developers of LOTRO proclaiming they would be the 2nd largest MMO game behind WoW, it has gone downhill.

I for one started my relaunch for one reason. I wish to not follow this rhetoric. I wish to discuss the games I enjoy.
But, I think there is a slew of blogs who are more homegrown, more real.
Their stories and opinions really have something to say to the web about the games they play.

I enjoy MMO's most, and my focus will be there, so it will be hard to resist these discussions of the "flavor of the month" MMO.
I hope to maybe instead talk about games which are unique in some way or format.
Age of Conan, Guild Wars, Chronicles of Spellborn, Aion...these interest me the most.

I hope that as this blows over, and people learn what is commentary and what is hyperbole, that we can get back to the games we love.

Cheers, and thanks for reading.

Compromises in our MMO's for the other half

Over on Veni,Vidi,Bloggi, I read how Aspendawn is having a dilemma.
The dilemma happens to be over Warhammer Online.

It seems that she and her husband game together, much like the wife and myself.
He has grown bored of their MMO of choice as of late, and has turned to the "new" game on the block.
Trying the game herself, Aspendawn seemed to not be too impressed...

"Although I knew it wasn't a game for me, I saw him enjoying himself"

Ah the compromises some of us make for our mates.

I knew that I saw something of interest in WAR, but I also saw how it replicated so much of the other mechanics of the old games.
When my wife tried it, then it was pretty much written out for me..

"This sucks, and I will not play it..."

Seems she helped me get off that fence.

And this is important to realize. Not everyone will like what others enjoy. No amount of coercion will help.

I think a lot of players go the way of the majority as maybe they do not have that special someone to help them make some decisions. Whether this is a life choice or just the way things are, it does not matter.

Some people can think for themselves luckily and make the right choices. Some follow the mob mindset.

For myself, and Aspendawn...our relationships can help us out in the long run. It is good to have that partner to rely on for input and decision making.

We have Guild Wars and Age of Conan now.

So, everytime when my wife sees that splash of blood in Conan on her screen and giggles as the mob she just destroyed is rolling in flames screaming profusely, she says "Ooo...that is so satisfying", or cries, "I have more babies" speaking of the undead that she has raised from the dead with her Necro in GW.

A man can only be so lucky in their life.

A game blogger with no compromise - Cow Nose

I wanted to give a shout out to Cow Nose the 50lb Cat and his blog.

I am impressed over a blogger who takes the time to write about their experiences in game.

Not just that though.

He has bucked the norm and is playing a game we do not hear much about.
Lineage 2.
Not following the "Herd" as most bloggers are in their jump to WAR, he marches to the tune of a different drum.

I enjoy a blogger who knows what they like, and stay dedicated and present their stories.

Thanks for being a Dichotomy!

Gestalt Gamer - Truth in blogging

I just read a very impressive post over on Gestalt Mind.

His statements really hit home on how I feel that the blogosphere has really taken a toll thanks to the feverish fanboyism of late.

One statement really hits home for me thanks to my "hiatus".
He says...
"I’m sick of reading various bloggers state that everyone just HAS to try it (Warhammer) and that if they don’t, they are just being stubborn. They state things like, “I’ve played it through beta and am still having fun. That PROVES that Warhammer isn’t just about hype. It is real and you have to try it.”

"Opinions of the “you MUST” variety are always a sure-fire way to keep me far, far away"

And this really explains my simple (or complex) reasoning of discussing the blogosphere as I have. It may explain why my commenting upon such games has been more "vocal".

Truly, we understand that the hype of the game has really created an almost "Religious Zeal" of the title, in protecting it or attacking others who do not enjoy any aspect of the game.

But, get over it.
Warhammer Online is not "unique". It is not an evolution of the MMO genre. It is tired and stale mechanics wrapped in a different skin, that really resembles the skin of another game which already has a huge audience.
World of Warcraft.

Eventually this fervor will die down, and then we will see the chinks of those who laud a game, only to be disappointed (A certain former Age of Conan, LOTRO player comes to mind) when it becomes rote and time spent really does not reap rewards, then they will be back on the same trail...looking for their next fix.

Instead, I hope that the sphere will get back to just writing about their "experiences" in their games of choice and not be such salesmen for mediocre titles.

Age of Conan - A 180 can exist

And the wife enters Hyboria...for 6 hours to prove it.

Last night (after a good talking to she gave me) we decided to sign her up. I told her that the game basically feels more alive and new.
I found a game key only (no box) online for only 26 bucks...a VERY nice sale.
We then re-enabled her account.

As she found out, trying something new helps offer a different perspective of a game.
She decided to buck the norm, and play a caster class.

Normally of the Rogue, Tank style of gaming, she has not strayed far from this path of class selection in the past.
Thanks to Guild Wars, she tried something new, and really enjoyed herself.

The same has happened in Age of Conan.

And 6 hours later we left this game world...

We also decided to try something.

Is the "Destiny" story line the reason to play AoC?
Most people applaud "Tortage", the tutorial section of AoC, up to level 20.
With a great storyline, a lot of people are enamored with this level of interaction...once.

We decided to buck this...
We have yet to play the storyline, and have found we still have a quest log full of things to do. We hit level 10 (yes, in 6 hours, and ONLY playing the quests, we find the level curve to be more normalized, and not so "rushed") and are ready to enter several of the "dungeons".
Quite a few sections exist for more hardcore playing.
The Coastal Caves has all sorts of little creatures to kill, and tunnels which could get you lost thanks to their maze like qualities.
The Underhalls with various quests, the White Sands and the Mausoleum, and there is also another dungeon I never stepped foot in, and then the Acheronian Ruins.

In so many words, a LOT to do just in Tortage alone. And we do not need to resort to the "Destiny" quests if we wish.

Supposedly if you level to 18, then there is a way to finally bypass Tortage.
So, the experiment is on.

We ran the game for hours with ZERO crashes and no OOM. The Gray Map issue has finally been fixed, and besides the various "sliding" character, we have yet to hit a "bug" to prevent us from going further.

I will attempt to see if the "Tortage" experience can be sampled in a different way, and report back on this.
With new management, and a commitment to discussion (not even 2 days after the announcement, the new Game Director has already gave a progress report, and I will have more on that soon), the game could basically change for the better.

I will myself, be pushing on the forums for a more PvE material, as Conan has a lot of potential in this arena.
But, I will save that for next time.

For now, the fact the game has made these changes, and seems to be running great, I see a lot of potential there.

Lets hope Funcom is not too late.

You are really not that important

There exists a specific group of game blogger's, a group who believes that they mean something in the infinite sphere of the web.

They either report on gaming and treat it as if it is news, but are more fanboy and child like in their fervor as to support arguments of their belief with words of attack and ridicule than to discuss the actual argument in the first place. Usage of the word "ass" is profusely inundated within their arguments as to make one wonder of their "preferences".

They are so addicted to gaming that they again like the above blogger approach the games with such fervor, that if one word is mentioned that opposes their game of choice, they lose all capability to discuss the subject at hand, and tend to misspell words at an enormous rate. They believe it is ok to attack games they do not play but, attack their game of choice and then they turn ugly.

There are those who profess "I graduated college with a 4.0 GPA, twice! No, you are not smarter than me", who attacks another person about a subject that they are actually as guilty of as the party they blame. And due to this ability to not recognize their own hypocritical nature, usually uses the words "Comprehension" to explain an issue with an argument when they actually do not understand. They are of the TL:DR generation.

Yet, all of these blogger's have a particular issue. Each have argued for a game they believe to be innovative and unique, when it is a retread of older games to begin with.
The issue is not so much their inability to see this, but to continue to take the argument of this "innovation" and then drive it home on every other blogs comments section, arguing with more popular blogger's or blogger's who really understand the concept of either humor or the concepts of the games, and creates a more readable space on the internet.

In so many words arguing with a blogger and attacking that blogger, who is just enjoying their time on the web and writing their feelings, what a blog is in the first place, about the same exact thing they are doing in the first place.

Hypocritical blogging at its finest

Some great blogs you may wish to visit which understand the right concepts of blogging and the blogosphere...

West Karana
Pumping Irony
Kill Ten Rats

These are fine examples of good blogging. They stick to their subject. If comments are made on their blog they are argue the reason of the comment and not resort to personal attack or slander.

This sounds like such serious talk for something that should be fun or enjoyable. And it should be.
But, sometimes when a blogger oversteps their bounds and use words of hate or are plain "mean" and attack others within this web community, they believe this proves they are a higher authority on the subject.

They really just a have a "stick up their arse".

You are less important than you think. I am but a blip on this trail of 1's and 0's. You only prove your inadequate nature just by each time you write about your subject in such a hype ridden fanboyish way.

Really stick to what your blog should be about. Gaming in general. If someone does not like your game then roll with it.

You really are not that important.