Saturday, January 31, 2009

What if....

Play along...

What if....WoW added housing for solo and Guilds, enhanced the Guild system to include Guild XP and then updated the graphics to a slightly more realistic format?

What if....Tabula Rasa and Hellgate:London had been released as "Buy once, No Fee" games?

What if....Fable 2 had online Co-Op with a Persistent World?

What if....Age of Conan had launched feature complete?

What if....Warhammer Online had a better PvE system? (With housing, better graphics etc...)

And the biggie for tonight...

What if...Darkfall actually does launch? Will it change anything?

Gamestop corroborates their top 8

I love the email flyers from various companies. It has sparked many a debate thanks to the games being listed in "Top 10" lists.

Here comes a new mailer from Gamestop. They note their Top 8 (why 8?) PC games for 2008.

An interesting list indeed.


Out of that list, 4 are MMO's. The one that has been a surprise all along still makes an appearance here,
Age of Conan.
But, we also have Mines of Moria and Warhammer Online (c'mon, we ALL knew WoW would be there.) being noted as their top sellers.

It was a bumper year for sales of these games, just not a great year of quality.

Makes me wonder...

What if....

Friday, January 30, 2009

Age Of Conan - How do I play

Due to the way the game is setup, some variations needed to be taken into account when I started playing the game again.

Some of the biggest complaints for AoC from various players of course is endgame (i.e: EVERY MMO's complaint at launch or it's first year), then of course finding quests, gear, and more.

When I went back, I decided to take a new approach, which I am finding satisfying, and a ton of fun.

The thing to remember is how the game is split into regions, just like most MMO's.
We have Aquilonia (a roman like theme permeates the region), Stygia (think Egypt!) and Cimmeria (now we have Vikings).
Thanks to Robert E Howards leanings to make his stories based off of our historical world, Funcom really grasped this, and each zone visualizes these worlds. Even the music matches the zones, with arias of women and soaring anthems in Cimmeria, lute like sounds in Aquilonia and reedy wind instruments with drum sounds for Stygia.
Here is a sample of music for the arrival island (giving the vibe of a jungle, which Tortage is...)



What I then attempted to do was set each character in a specific zone, and quest from there.

First off I had my highest level character, a level 51 Dark Templar (melee) who was questing in the Cimmerian sector of the world. He originally traveled from Aquilonia.
Next I have a level 32 Necromancer. She has been questing in Stygia, and will be ready to move to another zone soon.
I have one more and I cannot decide if I want another Melee or a Healer class (I believe the healer will win). Both of them are Cimmerian.
But, my focus has been the two classes who have already left Tortage.

My next move over the following week is to level one of the Cimmerians.

So basically, I have 3 different regions to play in, 3 varying classes (Melee, Pet, Heal), with 3 different goals.

I have teamed up quite a bit so far with the Aquilonian, but I want to tackle some of the group dungeons in Stygia this following week. I KNOW the Healer will get groups as well. The most solo friendly though has been the Dark Templar due to his melee skills, it makes the game more fun to play alone (due to combo action) and his tap life skills ( I call him the vampiric class) helps him survive longer than most.

Basically I am trying to be goal based. But, I am also trying to avoid "overplaying" any class.

The rich and rewarding scenery along with the beautiful music, and the constantly changing landscapes has helped me learn to love playing this game. Any MMO really...since my falling out last year.

I have not meddled with crafting or guild stuff (not much anyways yet), and I am glad of the crafting not being a need. The gear issue is also one that has made me go "I am not leveling to get new armor as big as a house to wear...". Gear dependence is moot here, and I am liking that.

Anyways, I hope to start grabbing new screenies for the various zones I am in, so expect some more "screenshot" heaven soon.

Cheers...

Votes are in - 5 to 1

Interesting results for my question yesterday. Thank you all for answering.

With a 5 to 1 result of more info about AoC and what is going on...I have decided to "SOMEWHAT" filter more information about AoC into my posts.

Do not get me wrong, I also am waiting for Aion, TCoS (yea...right...more on that later), or anything that looks pleasing. Nothing really does though. So, AoC focus on, and of course my usual diatribes.

Anyways, anyone watching Lie to Me? Not as big of a jerk as House, but still somewhat unique thanks to how the show plays out. The display of previous liars of history every once in a while is a great snicker (from Bill Clinton, Nixon, to sports stars, etc...great stuff).
I wish Bones was a better show, but for some reason the cast did not mesh for me (especially the turn in story over the last year really irked me)
Ok...if you have not watched this though, give it a look see on Hulu.com. Good stuff.

DANGIT...I still chat away don't I?...It is all the conversations in my head...the VOICES>>>>>>

AGGHHH.

Ok, all better...now, back to the regular blog!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Less MMO discussion lowers site traffic

Well, well.

Seems people, even though they complained about it, actually liked my ranting about MMO's (or maybe it was the Car Wreck syndrome taking effect)....

As I have reviewed my recent analytics, I see that a massive drop in traffic occurred in the New Year, which seems to coincide with my smaller focus on MMO's.

I am still interested, yet, I do not get as much pleasure out of discussing the genre that I feel is very stagnant at this time.
With games on the backburner like Chronicles of Spellborn, Aion, etc...I do not see any reason to start talking about them yet.
I am playing one game, and I could take my time to discuss it more. I really think it deserves it as well.
I may try to shift my focus for some articles so I can discuss the goings on in Age of Conan.

So, if I still have some traffic out there (and my traffic report shows "some" people coming still), give me a heads up on if you are interested in what is happening in Age of Conan.

Do you want to hear how the game is shaping up?

Recently a new patch just went to Test Live, and this will be a major patch come February. New high end content...hooray.
I also have a character that is getting ready to move in Ymir's Pass, which was the new mid level zone added before merges. With new "adventures" and story based quests, I think it could prove to be fun to discuss the changes.

Also, next patch will introduce a new level 40 area, to bring in extra questing in that range (less Villa grinding for anyone who knows about that set of adventure zones).

Anyways, I am glad to have been able to discuss MMO gaming, but until the genre gets their veritable head out of their a**es and start doing something different, I am not ready to play any more mediocre games or discuss them.

Cheers

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Resident Evil 5 - An exercise in adding realism

If any Horror Survival (HS) game has tried to advance it's own genre, it is Resident Evil.

For the longest time, each HS title has kept a locked camera perspective or a combat system that sucked beyond all get out.
Silent Hill, Alone in the Dark and the original RE's all had systems in place to make you wish that you could throw your controller out the window.
I cannot count how many times I have screamed at my screen as I died another cheap death.

Then RE4 came along. With a new angle for the camera (behind the shoulders) and a combat system that was more forgiving with tons of ammo and health all around. The control of how you lived or died was handed back to the player.
Throw in an RPG like system of upgrades and ability to buy the stuff you could not find...RE4 is truly a new age in HS gaming.
Thanks to RE4, we got Deadspace, which has proven that a Western influenced HS title can work, and quite well. Using the same formula of RPG style upgrades, better camera control, and less of the "cheap" deaths due to sneaks, etc., the genre is coming pretty far.
Silent Hill tried to fix their game with the last release, Homecoming, with full visual controls to allow you to see all around you, and combat that worked...most of the time.
Alone in the Dark also tried some new formulas (but still kept locked camera's, and the combat is slightly wonky to be almost buggy).

RE4 still wins hands down.

Now we have Resident Evil 5. In comparison, it holds a lot of the "in the moment" style of action like Deadspace. What this means is that you do not have a pause to get an item type of gameplay that most HS titles still cling to.

Released this week for XBL and PS3, the demo gives an idea of the hectic "OMG" moments that a real person would be dealing with as they try to survive being attacked by these new forms of "zombies".
And it has been frustrating as you play the demo.
For the player who is use to fast turns in 3rd person like Gears of War...it is not here. Standardized controls like Left Trigger, Right Trigger, reloads, etc...not here.
RE5 went with it's own control scheme which can be frustrating, but also manageable if you PRACTICE.

This is what I had to do with RE4 and their unusual scheme. Same for RE5.

After several play throughs, I found one scheme that worked for me.

But, then comes the Inventory system. This is definitely something Deadspace did right.
In Deadspace you could assign weapons to slots. Then using the D-Pad, select weapons as needed (for instant switching). Then all of the "heals" could be put in one spot for instant access.
RE5, everything is wherever you put it, and you need to align items as you get them for easier access. That or be prepared to die horribly and many times.
The issue is the menu screen comes up with a press of the Y button (on the 360). Then you use DPad or the Analog stick to move to an item. Then hit A to bring up a menu to Equip, Give or Throw away that item.
So, basically, we have 3 steps...Y, A, A to open, select and equip.

BAD!!!!

Think of heals. Y to open the menu, find the item (lets say you picked up an herb earlier, and it just went into the menu, so you do not know where it will be), move to that item, hit A, "USE?"..YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS....hit A......OMG, I am dead!

Frustration ensues.

So, as I played, I experimented with some options.

A unique aspect to the game is the AI driven partner. In this game, your partner is not some whiny girl you have to save...nope, this is some badass mama (who is HOT also...yum), that can also be controlled by another player...
She is a good shot, and heals you when needed.

So started the test. I would give her specific ammo. So she got all the handgun ammo, except maybe one or two loads for me. I took all the machine gun and rifle ammo.
I then started to give her all the herbs (which you can take back at anytime you have a breather).

But, there is no doubt that as a healbot, she proved very effecient. As long as we stayed close, we were good.

Another aspect that you learn is using various "hotspots" to hold yourself in as you are taking out mobs. Like GoW, cover is important (though not used as well).
Several burned up and gutted buses proved to be life savers, as the mobs used the doorways to enter, funneling in single file for easy removal from my weapons.
Backing yourself into corners helped somewhat, yet also proved to be death tombs, so you had to be careful.
Tactically the game is actually proving to be fun after the intial "OMG these controls suck".

This game is definitely on the "MUST BUY" as we the family being RE fanatics, must have it. Even with the frustrations (which seems to be a keyword when you associate Horror Survival with gaming...) I think the gorgeous graphics, and tense world of this lastest outing will be awesome.

I am sure the main game will give you more time to learn the in's and out's first, as the demo really throws a TON of stuff at you...difficult for sure. But, satisfying when you beat the level.

Just gotta learn those controls...ARGH!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Weekend Gaming Wrapup and tidbits

Well, it has been a little bit since I have posted my wrap.
Recently work has become more hectic thanks to the economy. I work for a non-profit, and as such, we are scrambling for ways to fund projects, and keep us afloat.
Luckily my division still has a cash flow. But, to keep that "flow" going, we must find more avenues.

Vicious cycle.

Anyways, what have I been doing this past few weekends? Resident Evil 4 and Age of Conan. I also trialed a copy of Longest Journey : Dreamfall (or is that the other way).

What has impressed me the most in Resident Evil 4 is the longevity. The game is much longer than I expected for a single player horror survival. Boss fights of course are the crux of the game time, as you DIE over and OVER.
But, the learning curve with the controls has been met, and I am able to work through the situations with a minimal amount of fuss. I can find the weakness, and then take them out effectively.


The inventory system that was created for Res 4 is top notch compared to most Horror Survival. I have never run out of room, and I can keep expanding. Also, the way they have the purchasing agent for upgrades scattered around the various zones is amusing (that and of course the infamous typewriter for saves).
I can smell the end in sight though (just quit dropping me through holes in the floor, get me out of the sewers and to the real meat of the game).

Age of Conan has been rocking. I transferred my level 51 over to the SET server where my Fellowship guild is located (680 members strong), and I have just hit level 54.


I have entered the Mountain zone part of Cimmeria (don't ask me to write the name down...Eiglophia...something), and the quests have filled up my log.
I also completed the next step in the Destiny quest line, and will be taking the next chapter of that story at level 60.
I think it is around level 56, I can enter the new zone known as Ymir's pass. This should be quite cool as the quests have more of a story bent to them. Even though right now I am enjoying the particular quests in the Eig Mtns.
Seems groups of Cannibals in the various parts of the Mtns. have started to gather around these large stone Orbs. The Orbs are making them more aggressive, and of course causing a grouping mentality (must be why they have not eaten themselves yet...), and attacking travelers through the mountains.
I must take out these Orbs in the hopes the Cannibals will be tamer (or less likely to think I am Kentucky Fried Aquilonian).

Anyways, the announcement for the next patch went out this past week, and the beginning of February looks like the launch of the new level 80 content and updates to various modes of gameplay. Better get leveling some more...!

More on that as it happens.

Yesterday I downloaded my copy of Resident Evil 5 on the 360. And I will join Scott who commented on my previous post where this is mentioned...

OH. MY. GAWD.

Who made those controls.

I tried to change the format somewhat to see if I could match my Resident Evil 4 settings, but that was a failure. Thanks to hard coded settings, this may prove to be a pain to play overall.
My son played, and handily walked through the first mission. I died horribly over and over as I got lost trying to equip a new weapon, take an herb, etc.
Sucky.
The biggest complaint? The real time inventory system.
I am sure they wanted to go for a more visceral and intense experience...but man oh man..
When you have creeps climbing over walls, through windows, etc...sitting there fumbling with an inventory screen that covers your view (slightly) and having to press a variation of buttons and controls to change to an item, caused more frustration than excitement.
I have read it is being discussed to release for the PC as well as the 360 and PS3. If so, this might be the ticket, and I can configure my controls using Xpadder.
For now, I will continue to practice...but I sure do not want to unlearn my Res 4 controls in my head, so I may hold off and finish Res 4 first.

As for tidbits...lets end on these little thoughts.

Supposedly the beta is really going for Darkfall (even though they call it a "Staggered release"...yea..). Even with excuses of DDoS attacks, downtime, etc.
Will this game really launch?
Hellgate: London...will you guys make up your minds already? Supposedly Hanbitsoft plans to make the game Free to play when the main servers close..
Hello, what is the REAL story here (and PS: I would play Hellgate if it was free...same with Tabula Rasa)
MMORPG.com has releaunched their site. Faster, cleaner, better font usage...now, if they could just clear out the riff raff who hang around the forums waiting for particular people to post and then attack those posts (this is the ultimate Trolls forum!).
Oh, and BTW, what the hell...Age of Conan now has an internal review rating of 1.0...uh, fix the site people!

Ok...outta here...later!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Netflix update and the "Experiment"

I wanted to let everyone know that my Netflix experience has been fixed...
I am unsure of what the issues were, as nothing changed on my end, except cabling up. Meaning, I have hardwired the main systems in my living room to the router...
But...
I have my son's PC on wireless with only a 36Mbit connection and signal ratio in the 80's, and he has had no drop outs or loss of picture quality.
As well, before the last weekend, even though I had gone Ethernet, I was still experiencing issues, but all of a sudden...they disappeared (on PC).
But...
My Xbox still every once in a while states I have only 1 bar of service, which means my full sized video is the quality of a low res Youtube video expanded to 1080p. I.E: UGLY!
So, while not perfect, all of our movies and videos load up instantly on PC, and the quality is full bars (now, only if Netflix could fix the other issue of some shows having sound issues...like the voice not matching the lip movement....and other oddities).
Another problem, as I found out the hard way, there seems to be a limitation on how many PC's can run at once. If you click through 36 links, as a technician had me do on their website, there is a hidden notice that states only one movie may be streamed at a time.
Otherwise, be prepared to be locked out.
Yea, still have quibbles, but I will live. Still, at least can watch some of my shows..

Which brings me to the "Experiment".
In December, we made a conscious decision to get rid of "standard" television, and see how we could survive using only internet streaming.
The constant rise in fees for Cable really drives you insane, and Satellite is not my cup of tea.

This is a savings of 60 bucks a month.

Of course, we pay 9 bucks for Netflix, but we would be doing this anyways, so we have resorted to learning how to access other ways of watching TV without having service.
I live in the mountains, so antenna service is out...no OTA (Over The Air) for us.

So, we have moved to several avenues of show watching.

The first, and BEST of the bunch is Hulu from NBC.
This service has become more impressive by the day. With regular network shows from Fox, NBC, Comedy Central and then short film affairs from Fear.net or other "Webisodes", we have quite a bit of control over our viewing.
You can "subscribe" to shows, and be notified when they have new episodes. We also can queue up shows (very important for the Webisodes, as to prevent downtime opening up episodes, and can get an almost linear like procession of the episodes.)
Hulu also offers older movies, and with minimal interruptions from commercials, I have no issue watching the shows this way. Thanks to 1080P, I feel the playback is more than acceptable, and the on demand style of viewing makes for a more pleasurable experience.

The next is Fancast, which tries to bring all of the different networks together under one roof. With movie trailers, TV shows from the other networks who do no stream through Hulu (like ABC, CBS), and of course specialized networks with vidcasts (podcasts of video) like Diggnation, this one rounds out the set of regular viewing.

For our son, we set up links to Cartoon Network, Toonami's stream and Nicktoons on his PC (but he can also get Hulu, etc...).
He also has the Youtube addiction watching the Halo machinama and he is interested in making his own little videos (he has one of the quick plug Vidcams that stores 4 gb of video, and is a very good quality)...he is having a blast with it.

So far, we have not had too many issues. We know Internet uptime may not be the best, thus the reason we kept Netflix (rentals win for downtime). But, I also have not had an internet outage in months.
And the savings are really worth it. I think IPTV is a future we can live with, and I feel no need to go back to the "leash" of high Cable bills.

Anyways, I hope to do a Weekend wrap up later, as I really was busy.
Also, for those "Horror" fans, the Resident Evil 5 demo hit Xbox live, and with CO-OP (a first for Horror Survival) we, of course, expect a massive ton of fun with this. We will be looking at a wireless mic solution for the wife, who will enjoy herself thoroughly telling myself and my son what to do (as we plan to team up)...

Can't wait!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Fable 2 - DLC? Not so impressed

Too easy, not a whole lot to do, and overall could have saved 10 bucks.

I wish they would have introduced a new mob or something.
I like the idea of the special "gift" shop where unique items were held. But, the puzzles were lame, and overall Fable 2 was good while it lasted, but just does not have that longevity I like in my RPG's.

Goes on my to sell list now.

Back to some AoC (oh, and just tried the demo for the Dreamfall...the second release, Longest Journey...I think I may add that to my to buy list)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chronicles of Spellborn - "Some really good news"

The exact words from The Historian on January 8th. Actually let me quote here...

"That said we should have some good news very very soon."

Ok then...how good?

From the Spellborn boards

14 Jan 2009

"Hi Players,

The game guard and server side implementation has been done, We have received the Acclaim version of the test client also.
We are in process of setting up the servers and testing the client for any bugs which need to fixed before the close beta release.
So keep your fingers crossed that we don't come across any critical issues.

Thanks"

Today's date, Jan 22nd. The ACTUAL release date for Closed Beta? November 27th, 2008.

So, I am starting to get confused. Will this game ever launch in 2009? And how is the game doing overseas?

Empty servers is the word being bandied about. I see nothing good coming of this issue.

Not holding my breath any longer, I figure this one goes on the backburner until I see an email for my invite.

Whenever that will be.

Age of Conan - Free character transfers

Yesterday's down time made available free transfers until sometime in February. I had been waiting for this so I could put all my characters on one server. (At least the ones I play the most).
As I stated previously, I have one character for each race right now. An Aquilonian, Stygian and Cimmerian. The i
ssue was my highest level was on one server and the other two with my new guild Fellowship of Souls on another.

Now they reside together in harmony. I also have a Tempest of Set who was originally a PvE, who I transferred to a RP-PvP.
With merges complete and transfers in place, I am feeling more at home, and enjoying myself very much.

Yesterday I got to do a most interesting quest. The interesting part is the quest is given to me by a speaking head on a pole.
He notes he was a "Farmer" at one time (in a land of rocks mind you) and wished me to take vengeance for him against another spirit who walks the land.
Yet this other spirit is there only to help with the passing of his warrior bretheren. He knows the spirit that now rests on the pole is there to suffer for his own past crimes.

Ah the petty squabbles of the dead.

Anyways, off for some more gaming goodness. I made some further progress in Resident Evil 4 and may be near the end. Also of note, next week brings a demo of Resident Evil 5, with a coop feature that looks to be quite fun, and has enough visual quality to look better than the CGI movie that was recently released.

Cheers

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The controversy...oh my

I have decided what I finally like about some games, and the one mechanic that most everyone hates, but I love.

I love a game on rails.

Lead me along, give me a good map, keep me in line. If I have to go back, of course give me a reason. But, if anything, keep me going ahead, and just tell me my story.

I have never written a movie, so why should I write my own game. Looking at that analogy, if someone is talented enough to give me a good story, and has my character progressing properly..I will be quite content with the material.

Maybe this is why Horror survival is my cup of tea. Maybe that is why Guild Wars totally rocks. Maybe that is why some MMO's don't really feel like my cup of coffee (not THAT big of a tea fan).

Resident Evil, Age of Conan, Prince of Persia, Devil May Cry, Final Fantasy, Guild Wars, Silent Hill, Gears of War...

Story and lead me by the nose gaming....YUM!

I think gaming wise, I have it pretty good. Clear objectives and good story wins the day for me....

I can now imagine the many a blogger who love this whole "Sandbox" thing ripping their hair out now. You can have all the sand in your shorts that you wish.

Gimme my rails dangit!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Netflix again and Age of Conan


Well, back to the Netflix issue.
In my previous post someone stated they were "wired" to their modem, and as such have not had "hiccups".
I rewired yesterday to make sure this was not the problem.
I ended up with issues still left and right, including a new one. Seems I keep being told I had 2 movies already
open...when no movies were playing.
Back to Netflix support, and some major "updates".
First and foremost, they confessed to issues with Xbox playback. They said "it is something we are working on"
.
I hope so, as when I wire up the Xbox and it STILL tells me I have only 1 bar (in their bandwidth rating system, meaning SLOW), then something is wrong on YOUR side.
Also, they find that for some reason they have "licensed" my PC (yea, they had the full scoop of data on what media player I was using, PC specs, etc..) for an older version of their software
, and not the new DRM heavy, very clunky and basically "IT DOES NOT WORK" Silverlight software from Microsoft.
After an hour, they had fixed my multi movie issue.
But, I am still down to 5 minute buffering, multiple interruptions, and an overall unpleasant experience.
We have decided to focus on our DVD queue. But, the live streaming is a joke for now.

Anyways, back to gaming news. I did not do a weekend wrap up, as besides the heavy Resident Evil 4 focus we are on, I started back up my Age of Conan time.
What a difference the higher levels are when finding groups.
Twice I have advertised for specific groups, and had sucess instantly.


Specifically in the Fields of the Dead, there is an island full of undead, with various locations with bosses. A group can move through fleetingly and get the bosses amulets for a quest as well as mark totems within the grounds for the ancestors remembrance.
Total blast.
I did get a VERY nasty lag spike, which I had reported, as I was stuck not able to do anything for 5 minutes...it was weird.
Luckily this was fixed, and the rest of my play sessions have been quite fun.
I also had one character back on Tortage, finishing quests there.
This would make my retinue complete of an Aquilonian, Stygian and Cimmerian. One for each zone.
Ok...back to the game this morning. Everyone have a good day!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Netflix - Not all it is cracked up to be

This weekend really proved what a disappointment the Netflix streaming service is (or has become).

At first the service seemed to work quite well actually. Very rarely would we have any hiccups in streaming a movie, or issues with quality.
I have tried many ways to get this to work well since about 2 weeks ago, and have hardly watched any movies since.

The issue comes around 5pm or "Primetime".

This morning for example, I decided to try and start a movie, and I can watch the loader come up within seconds, the movie itselfs starts within 5 seconds...and I am off.
The evening rolls around, and then the movie loader can take between 15-30 seconds...not a big deal eh?
Then the movie buffers.
We can wait for a total of 5 minutes for the movie to buffer.
Then within 1 - 10 minutes, the service states our Internet connection has slowed, and will rebuffer, which takes...you got it...another 5 minutes.

This weekend really proved just how bad the service is.

We attempted to watch an old Horror classic, The Thing, John Carpenters remake version. Probably one of his best movies ever.
The service was SO bad, we resorted to Hulu.com to watch it, complete with their commercials, but the quality was on par, and even somewhat better, and ZERO hiccups (at the same time of night).

So, I attempted to discuss this with Netflix to find out what is going on, and what struck me as odd, as I talked with their tech support, was the technicians constant denial that they were doing anything on their side...even when I had not said anything about them having issues on their side.
They of course blame the ISP. Who wouldn't?
The technician states that they must have 1.5Mbps for standard movies, and 3Mbps for HD.
Ok...I have 10Mbps.
"Well, we do know that as Cable internet goes through the day, more people will log on and slow down the connection".
Ok...but, why is it I can watch Hulu HD with zero issues? And NO BUFFERING?

I experiemented with a ton of settings, but have had no luck finding a fix on my side. And so I tested other services.
Blockbusters Movielink system (though relegated to Internet Explorer and Windows) would play the movie INSTANTLY, and still continue downloading in the background. Amazon unbox worked on and off, but of course they only showed trailers. I could not test a full movie there.

It is understandable that the service is new for the Xbox, but the PC version acts the same way.
It has even gotten to the point that we are worried about starting a movie due to the problem now.
We started to watch another classic last night...Tommy by The Who! (no, it is not just classics btw), and within 5 minutes of starting and buffering, it hiccuped, and started to buffer again..

We quit, and played Resident Evil 4.

We are not alone though, and hopefully this is just growing pains for Netflix. But, if someone wanted a recommendation for their online streaming, I would give it a pass...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Age of Conan - Top 5 for 2008 sales

Ok, I was unsure of this before, but it seems another list has been released.
Age of Conan hits #4 on the top 5 of best selling PC games for 2008.
Not far behind is WAR at #5.

Now, no source is cited, and this is my only qualm (hopefully not the Amazon list...lol), but I am sure someone will bring this up, and hopefully we will have some backing data.

As I have stated before, this is a boon for Funcom and basically speaks to the "potential" of the game to flourish. All Funcom has to do is get this merge out of the way, add DX10, and then start the "Come Back".

Not much else to say but...get it rolling Funcom.

Ok, have a good weekend, and CHEERS!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Darkfall - Putting things in perspective

A notice went out today and shock of horrors...the game is delayed for launch.

Tasos (the outspoken spokesman who puts Funcom to shame with rude and even vile comments to his player base) said

"We know that the community has been speculating and wondering about the Darkfall release for some time. We haven’t replied until now because there were several complex issues to plan and work out. We also needed to get authorization before we could proceed with this official announcement:

Starting on January 22nd there will be a Darkfall trial with the distribution of the release candidate client allowing thousands of players to sample the game for free, help us stress test our servers and test the final features of the game."

So, I guess we can still call it official (or would this be a beta test?)

Anyways. How does this really work? Why is it taking longer? And why are the Darkfall fanbois calling this ok?

Going in search of when the game was originally announced, I found this wonderful article at Gamespot..

Gamespot article

"Although Darkfall isn't scheduled for release until early 2003..."

"Razorwax plans to begin closed pre-alpha testing of the game next month..."

"We have seen lately that other companies have been developing games for two or three years before starting open testing," said lead designer and producer Claus Grovdal. "We want to try something different, and be closer to our potential future players earlier in the development process."

When was this published?

"Posted Aug 2, 2001 3:16 pm PT"

So, what is another months delay...right folks? I figure, if you can't get it right in 7+ years, whats another delay..eh?

Age Of Conan - How much did the merge help?

I think this is a telling sign. Way to go Funcom.


I logged in, and went back to my old guild, Fellowship of Souls.
They have a strict policy which makes perfect sense. Do not log in for 30 days, get the boot.
Anyways, when I logged in after my invite, they have a noted 665 ACTIVE members. That is quite impressive. This was on the server SET.
When transfers take place next week, I plan to transfer my level 52 over to SET, and join with these guys.
PvP was active (note this is a PvE server, with the PvP mini games), and people were all over the place (even on Tortage, which means either new players or players starting from scratch).

The servers were down this morning to fix a few issues on the merges. But, so far this is all a good sign. Can't wait to see the "fresh start" servers take off also.
Anyways, not much to discuss today...but keep an eye open for a VERY controversial post...NO ONE will agree with it either...lol.

Later.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

MMO Subscription Monetization

Yesterday I left up a post about how people feel regarding the $15 monthly fee, and if it

1. Makes them decide on how many games to have in their subscription kennel due to the current economic crisis
2. If there are alternatives they would be interested in.

A few commenters agreed on the aspect of "Time limited" gaming, which could offer lower prices, and then limited hours to play. Anywhere from 10-15 hours a month I think is a feasible start.
Why is it that in Asian countries they can set the time limits, but in the Western countries, not so much.
Or maybe they do not want to? Who does not like a steady cash flow each month?
But, thanks to some shoddy work out there, some games do not deserve all that time to play them.
What I mean to say is, if Tabula Rasa had a 10 hour system, for say 5 bucks, imagine how many people would have jumped into that fray.

Another commenter suggested the pay once, pay never again (and not like Guild Wars). Along the lines of say...LOTRO, and the $199 fee.
I still have an issue with this one, as for myself, I could NEVER put that much time into the game to pay such a high fee.
Same with Hellgate.
I think this is why Hellgate bombed out as well. The price was too high. 5 bucks a month for the server access would have been a dream.
The pay once and never again deal was not a hit.
This may help developers get an initial influx of cash...but otherwise...forget it.
We never know if that game will last beyond 6 months, a year, so why pay out the nose all in one lump sum.
I still think of Tobold here, who paid the founders fee, or Tipa who paid the big ole fee for LOTRO, yet have put as much time into the game as a single player RPG...lol.

Guild Wars still has the best model. Make the game have an END. Charge one fee. Have SOME fun things to do after someone completes the game. But, make them salivate for that next chapter as well..
That next box is what will make the money for them.
Think of how many developers right now, still create content on a regular basis. What if they released that content all at once in a box instead. Say charge 29-39 bucks.

Right now, the proven fact is no one can compete with WoW. Why try to price like WoW.

Lars was inspired to write a great post on his feelings on the subject
. He has some other ideas on pricing. Also, some of the major blogs have attached to this subject as well, so make sure to look them over.
Someone needs to make the right moves here to change this atmosphere of "All you can eat, one price" MMO dining. I prefer a well made meal of RPG goodness ladled over with fun, inventive mechanics and gameplay.

Anyways....I can't eat that much at those buffets...can you? And have you smelled some of those places? YUCK!!!

Laters all.

Age of Conan - Server merges are complete

Noted to have a 24 hour down time, after 20 hours, the servers return.
All servers were merged as noted previously here.

It will probably take several days to see what the outcome will be for this. I do know the continued resurgence on Xfire is taking place with the game ranking at an amazing #47 yesterday. For AoC that is an accomplishment.

There was some ribbing on AoC for winning a Game of the Year award for 2008 (and I tend to agree with that wholeheartedly. It was not GOTY material)...but it should have received a "Most Improved" award. Craig Morrison continues to make the game better, and is on top of the titles changes.

My time card is burning a hole through my pocket, so I guess I better get ready to log in, as I completed Star Wars yesterday in a marathon run (tough game also near the end...). Great game, and quite pleased with the overall experience.

There was some good discussions yesterday on my post about MMO fees, and I will talk about that more later...

Have a good one.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

MMO genre monetarily speaking

I will be out of town today for a retreat with the group I contract with, so I just wanted to post a thought, and discussion for when I return.

I have noted an upswing in posts regarding the monetization for the MMO genre.
The one post that started me thinking about this post is Tish Tosh. Specifically in his comments, he states...

"There’s certainly something to be said for finding a profitable niche and catering to it. The MMO market is oversaturated with $15/month monster hunts. "

Could it be that it is not so much that all of the MMO's are just copying each other mechanics wise, but instead, the player has to be selective?
We still are in a money crunch, so people will be careful where their money is spent. If a game has to be given up, then people will stick with a more populated MMO than even trying something new.

I really think the way MMO's charge for gameplay needs to be reviewed and modified. Think of the next MMO coming, Darkfall. If it is another 15 buck a month affair, do you really want to give up your WoW, EQ2, LOTRO, etc. for taking a chance on this title, especially if you really do not know what it is about? (Well, besides it being Vapor still...so ignore that part.).
Aion will offer a free "preview" of the game, but will 2 or 3 days be enough for you to say "Yea, I can throw out another 15 bucks here".

What if instead they offered a 10-15 hour a month gameplay session for 5 bucks? Would you think about them then?
What if the download was free, the first month was free, then you paid if you wanted to continue?

What are some other possible avenues?

There is no doubt, the 15 dollar deal has me really making tough decisions, and just saying "No" to MMO's right now...unless I get a deal or get to try it first.

How about you..?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Weekend Gaming Wrapup

And an interesting one at that.

Shock of shocks, but I have been having a BLAST in the new Star Wars:Force Unleashed game. I am not a huge Star Wars fan, but some things I like.
The last game I enjoyed was Republic Commando for the XBOX and PC. A very good FPS, with some cool tactical combat.
This latest game has SO many ways to take an enemy out, and as you progress you gain more abilities.


The visual quality is great, and the boss fights are just the way I like them.
Even better is the fact that the story in this one game is 100% better than the last 3 mistakes...uh, I meant movies.

Also, this weekend after going and having an awesome meal at P.F. Changs (yum...the best Chinese ever...), (EDIT: Yes, I know it is Fusion, yet the "Chinese" based dishes makes other Chinese taste like crap) we saw The Unborn. This movie was rated horribly, but I am a fan of Goyers writing, and he has at least made progress in his directing skills. I also think people concentrate on so many stupid things.
For example, so many reviews mention that the lead walks around in her panties, almost like she did it for the majority of the film. The panty walks lasted all of 2 minutes...
The story is convoluted, and people did not like that...OMG...please.
The concept was sound, and was unique as well. Just like The Invisible (which people also did not rate highly), and the interesting prospect of that story, we as a whole enjoyed each of these films.
If you have the capability to follow a good story, and can ignore some pitfalls, you can see the progress of a Writer/Director coming into his own..
In so many words, we liked it.
Anyways, this all leads to a trip to the store, and finding Resident Evil 4 for PC for a measly 5 bucks. Being fans of this series, but never having purchased it due to reviews knocking the graphical porting, and wonky controls...we decided..."What the heck"...5 BUCKS.
And we were not disappointed.


Luckily a patch had been released which fixed a majority of the texture problems. As well, the 360 controller works like the Gamecube controller did, and I was able to get the hang of the game before long.
There is no doubt as a whole the game is fun. And of course, with us being Horror Survival fanatics, we loved the creepy feel...so far.
We will play this one out.

Finally, as you may notice, another game left my list. The Darkness. I think it has to do with the FPS controls, and I am just not ready for an FPS at this time.
Plus, I added Age of Conan, as my time card shipped, and will be here Tuesday.

Awesome.

Finally this week, Fable 2's DLC is suppose to finally launch. New adventures, etc. I cannot wait to go back to Albion! Hopefully I will be done pretty soon with Star Wars, as I think I am at the end...woohoo. I am totally sticking to my one game at a time rule on the 360, so no Fable until Star Wars ends.

Cheers and lets all work toward having a good week!

Age Of Conan - Kotaku shuts down the game

Or you would believe that is what happened with this type of crappy posting.

We have discussed this before, in that the "headline" of our posts sometimes really scream for attention, and Kotaku really takes the cake on this one.
I jumped out of my seat when I read this morning...

"Age Of Conan Servers Closing, Game To Be Issued Last Rites"

What the HELL!

There is no doubt people have opinions about many things in their life, but for a site that "reports" news (it is NOT a blog), just like Massively, I believe headlines really need to stay on cue, and be realistic.

The above headline really states a major disaster, and how is this to be taken by those who may be just cruising the web?

Talk about some unimpressive reporting here.

Anyways, the real scoop can be found at GI.biz. This discusses the current merge plans.

The changes are keeping the game steady on Xfire, and in Eurpoe, sales have been brisk due to a sale at Play.com. It also has recently moved up in Amazons charts also.

Ah well, one less news site in my reader..

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Friday, January 9, 2009

Age Of Conan - Final merge data released

And talk about bringing the count down.....

A post was made on the main forums about what servers will be left after merges. It seems after all is said and done, there will be a total of 6 servers in the US.

The listing follows...

US Servers
  • Set (PvE)
    * Damballah
    * Bardisattva
    * Dagoth
    * Derketo
    * Hanuman

  • Wiccana (PvE)
    * Mannanan
    * Ajujo
    * Thog
    * Zug
    * Omm

  • Gwahlur (PvE - Oceaninc)

  • Tyranny (PvP)
    * Scourge
    * Bluesteel
    * Stormrage
    * Deathwhisper
    * Doomsayer
    * Shadowblade

  • Cimmeria (PvP-RP)
    * Bane

  • Bloodspire (PvP - Oceanic) - merged on 7th January 2009)
    * Hyperborea
The bolded servers will be the mains, and the others listed underneath will merge into that server.
Set and Wiccana were the two servers I played on. I also have a character on Deathwhisper and Cimmeria, but were there during population checks, but not played much. When I go back, I will be focusing on SET (as it has the VERY large guild I was in) and Cimmeria.

Now, what is really interesting is how the server system works for AoC. Basically new fields are spawned when around 1500-2000 players are on board. What this means is new "instances" start to appear when the server areas fill up. How many for each instance is unknown.
Each server has been discussed as capable of 8000-10000 concurrent users at once (compared to say the non-instanced games like WoW which has a 1500 to 2000 player limit per server (based on calculations noted around the web).
Not sure how that will play out in the long run, and if queues will start to appear.

They have listings for the EU servers, and you can preview those changes here.
Now all we have is time to see how this proceeds.
What I DO know is for the first time in about 3+ months, AoC finally got out of the 50's on Xfire yesterday and peaked at #49.



Cheers

Aion - Too many Eastern influences

Yesterday I made a very random point about Aion, and whether the Western audience could even attempt to accept the title.

Due to it's Eastern influences, the visuals are of Anime based characters, the animation is standard Asian MMO movement and combat, and finally the one dreaded issue that was still out for review...the grind.

This one major issue will be a detractor for the US and Western based audiences...GRIND.
So much effort has been put into Western based games to relieve the stress of grind, and all discussion has led to the belief that Aion would follow a Western culture makeup in regards to XP and leveling (as well as other lesser items like WASD and no point click movement).
Anyways, in a previous post, a comment was made by Lars of MMOment of Zen, where he referred me to a site...
Check the link here
If you review the site, it has various charts showing major discrepencies of quests XP vs Mob XP and trying to reach the next level.
As happens with all MMO's, after level 20, the perceived issue of any MMO rears it's head.
Such is the case for Aion, where the needed XP to level requires more mob kills, and keeps going up as you level.
This arbitrary need to slow the game down to get those monthly dollars is really becoming an irritant.
And Western audiences want more of a perceived value for their cash. Grinding mobs will NOT give the feeling of "This is worth it".

Based on this, I decided to review other discussions about this game or problems perceived, and where it may be headed. I for one am quite interested in the game, as I like Anime (I use to be a huge fan, but have fallen by the wayside recently), but some issues could detract from this.

My first problem is most "In game" videos seems to have a hip hop, disco type feel to the music.



One of my pet peeves for some games is the music sucks (Tabula Rasa) or games have REALLY good music even though the game sucks (Lineage 2 by far has an amazing soundtrack, and I have it in My Music to play with some of the shoddy free games I have played before)
Look at Sword of the New World as an example of an interesting take on the music, that fits the game, but really detracts from playing, that I turn it off.



The next issue arises with a BAD gameplay mechanic.
A forum post located here, discusses how the "Person who deals the most damage, gets the XP".
It does not matter who tagged the mob, etc. Someone can come in and steal that kill, ala Lineage 2, and get all the XP. Also, note, PvP is slightly strange, so you cannot kill the problematic player in the field. I do have to investigate that part of the PvP system more...but it is RvR, so you cannot attack your own race is basically the issue, but your comrade can steall all of your kills.

And the biggest issue right now? You guessed it...BOT's.



Seems there is a major infestation of these on the Eastern servers (note, which are in full release). This goes hand in hand with the most awful "Gameguard" system which some more recent games are going to (Spellborn, which because of Gameguard is being held back, according to The Historian from Acclaim.)
Seems Gameguard and Bots are pretty much a team. Get one, you will get the other (another fine example of this messy situation was Silkroad Online).

And that really boils down the major part of this post.

Where there are Bots...there is Grind. Western audiences...beware.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Todays tidbits

Of interest...

Did you know Square Enix has been working away at a new MMO, and may plan to show it at this years E3?
What is more interesting is they plan to NOT use the Final Fantasy license, and it supposedly is a whole new IP? Or if not a new IP, a different IP...

Fascinating.

Did you know the rumor mill hit full steam this past month over the fact that Turbine is working on RMT (really now...who isn't recently) for an MMO.
The LOTRO kids went insane, but luckily it seems to be a NEW MMO. 

Now, if it is free, I would actually play it...

Whatever happened to Webzen? This company had a supposed 3 major MMO's that were up and coming..then it is like they vanished.
Microsoft had their hands in one title, which was to be the first MMOFPS for the 360. Called Huxley.
Well, it seems Webzen was going to call it quits, and all development stopped.
Out of the blue, it seems news has arisen of a relaunch, and a rename for Huxley as well to Huxley:Dystopia.

Some good video of the game at the link above...make sure to check it out.

On the same site, there is a poll, with the most anticipated upcoming MMO's. What struck me as odd is that Blade and Soul, so far a Korean only NCSoft game, is beating Aion (whicha happens to be in the #2 spot though) for most popular. Aion is released in Korea, and is coming to North America SOON (trademark that word people....).

Like we seem to always say, no one is ever happy with what they have, and are always looking for the next thing.

Finally....does anyone really think Darkfall will launch on the 22nd of January? Does anyone really believe that there are "code" issues with Acclaims copy of Spellborn in regards to the anti hack cheat guard?
Will the US audience buy into Aion? Will WoW's playerbase decline below 10 million this year?

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Age Of Conan - First server merge a success

Checking the forums, it seems the first set of the server merges has happened.

Bloodspire and Hyperborea were merged (with the new server being Bloodspire). This first test is also interesting as it is a PvP server (both of them) but one was a RP (Bloodspire).
As such, it seems discussion is underway of how everyone feels about the RP vs. no RP will go.

At this time no further merges have been noted yet, but I will assume the next set will be PvE (my hopes anyways).

Things look good as supposedly discussion is rampant on the new server, and the guild count is quite high as well. Should be interesting to see those will merge also.

If more news comes up on this, I will post it.

As a side note, my time card for AoC was back ordered for between 2-4 weeks. Seems Amazon was sold out (ARGH!)...so it looks like I may load up my DDO account and give that a try for now.

Cheers

Another one bites the dust!

Infinite Undiscovery ...time to say goodbye. I hardly knew ye'

7 hours in, and the lack of fun became quite evident. The issue revolves around the group mechanics and the drop system.
The game also plays like a real time MMO (it felt like the new Shin Megami Online game combat wise), which would be fine, if other features of an MMO existed.
I would level up, and the game would take care of everything. I would die, and the AI would take care of everything...ah heck, the AI even took care of most of the mobs.

There was no skill involved or needed.

The fact I was still using the same weapons, towns were few and far between to buy stuff, and saves were irritating...overall it just died in the Fun department.

So, with that out of the way, I decided to load up Star Wars , The Force Unleashed. There are a lot of cool mechanics here regarding force powers and what not. The fact the story is better than the last 3 movies also helps in enjoying the game.
This should tide me over for now until the release of Lord of the Rings Conquest (you know...a GOOD LOTR game).
And come February, the release of Drakensang, an old school party based RPG like Neverwinter Nights, but more involved.

Cheers

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Age Of Conan - Amazon top 10 for 2008?

Well, this proved to be quite interesting.

I received a mailer from Amazon which has the top 10 best PC games (I assume based on sales) for 2008.

The list goes something like this...

Best PC Games for 2008
1
"World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King Expansion Pack"
Learn more
2
"Fallout 3"
Learn more
3
"Spore"
Learn more
4
"Far Cry 2"
Learn more
5
"World of Goo"
Learn more
6
"Sins of a Solar Empire"
Learn more
7
"Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures"
Learn more
8
"Crysis"
Learn more
9
"Grand Theft Auto IV"
Learn more
10
"Nancy Drew: The Haunting of Castle Malloy"

Age of Conan comes in at #7!

This is really quite interesting to note...I did not see WAR here or Mines of Moria, etc. I thought maybe it was based on the amount of time it has been sold, but then Far Cry 2 is on that list, which was released in October.

I think a lot of people under estimate the sales of this game, and this could prove to be a boon for Funcom if they sort out the server merge issues (which are finally starting this week) and of course, release patch 1.4 with new content for level 80's and DX10.
If they do a free "comeback" campaign, the retention could be sky high. The reason for this is due to the current discussion of the games capability to please people that have returned recently.
Several discussions are going on in various forums. People have noted major stability and performance enhancements since returning. The new mid level content looks quite good. Overall I think the game does have the right motives...now they need to pick up the pace and get a move on.

I am thinking that they are waiting for word on their latest plans.

The discussion is underway to buy back the shares in their stock, and own the company and go private. A recent PDF of a meeting shows this discussion in detail (lots of "Meeting" minutes lawyer talk there...but if you WANT to read it...lol)

If this happens, then they can make adjustments to pricing, subscribership, and probably how they run their games.
We can be assured that the premature release was due to pressure from investors. If they own the company, then Funcom could be like Turbine, and probably turn a profit within a year or two..

As long as AoC becomes their main source of income...and to do that, they need to get the fixes rolled out, and ready for player returns.

I wish Funcom luck in 2009. BTW, I had a $10 certificate for Amazon, and I have ordered a 60 day card to hold onto for when merges take place.

Here is to more decapitating By CROM!
_________________________________

EDIT: Of Note....

This is an interesting conundrum, as it seems Amazon has created this list to send in the mailer I received, yet a specific link in the mailer goes to the site with all of these games in different positions.
As has been pointed out to me on several forums, it seems odd that Age of Conan is listed in my mailer, yet does not even get on the list for the site.

What is even odder is the site states their list is "In no particular order".
So, this begs the question...is the email a lie? Is the mailer a false sales statement?

One line in the email says...

"As someone who ordered PC games or accessories, you might be interested in the 10 games that top the list for 2008."

Top what list? I started to wonder if the mailer is tailored for each individual, yet, would that not require a ton of work? How did Amazon decide what games to put here?
As one individual stated "Maybe this is their stock of games with the most inventory..."
Ok...this could be true. But, the wording becomes suspect, and again, the work put into creating a false sense of a Top 10 list makes me wonder the motives.

Is Amazon sending out false mailers or using wording to sell products in a particular way?
Why send an email with a link to a game that is on their supposed "Top 10", yet not have the same game on the main site list?

Weird.

I would like to know if anyone else go this mailer?