Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Sixth Meme - Or...

How I learned to stop worrying and love the pic....

Ok, this was an odd affair. Many people were doing these pics in a multitude of ways. I thought to myself...how can I do it and be cool.

I failed.

I then went to my sixth folder and the sixth pic in My Photos folder. I ended up with...



From Cabal Online. This was during closed beta testing. A neat game, but of course, grindy. Had hints of Diablo mixed with a Korean MMO.

I did not last too long in that game.

So, I then tried to look at screenies of JUST MMO's. This worked out good.

I found the sixth folder of the sixth MMO screenshot folder, and got...



Perfect World Malaysia.

This screenie showed the one thing this game has that makes it fun to at least try. The flying was phenomenal. I could spend 30 minutes just flying around, and have fun. The rest of the game was awful, but it was not a visual slouch, and the airborne time was amazing.

Thanks to this meme, it also lets me reflect on something for a moment.

Each of these games are free, with RMT. They both have been running for years. They both have a high audience count on Xfire. They both prove that not all MMO's need to be buggy (they both are quite stable, and no weird issues all the time). They both prove that hype and big bucks do not equal success.

Players need to accept that maybe up and coming MMO's need to look at this market, and how players pay for their games. Developers need to look at making sure they have a game that works. And maybe they do not need to put all those big bucks into development.

Anyways, thanks DMOsbon and Hudson..

Meme complete!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Blogger screwing up and other tidbits

Well, seems as blogger integrates a new "friends" system into blogger, which allows your Gmail contacts to be followers or to follow their stuff, it is starting to get a bit wonky...i.e: I will call it "Googlebook Twits in Myspace"...

Anyways, so much going on...

First up, I have been tagged for a meme by DMOsbon at Construed (I promise to get to that...), and Hudson issued the same challenge to everyone...so dang, gotta catch up.

Next up, the Feb 2009 Game Directors letter for AoC has been released with the next patch info, and it is a doozy (complete with screenies...). Basically they call it the RPG system, and it now makes gear matter. I will be working up a post on that as soon as possible.
(EDIT: AoCBlog beat me to the punch, thus making my life a little easier. Good info there, so follow this link. I may comment later, but lets just say, wow...very nice stuff.)

Anyone who watched Lost this week...OMG. (This show has done a complete 180 on information and story. This truly is what fun TV is suppose to be like). Also, does anyone recognize the lady that was in the last two episodes? She is younger with dark long curly hair...(YUM). I do not want to give too much away, but if you do, make sure to comment...lets just say you will get geek cred points if you know her.

I have a busy weekend with some work, so I may not be around too much after today, but I will try to get those posts in. I am working on some catchy music for a "commercial" for the non-profit I work for (woot). It has to be catchy, light, meaningful...hope I can figure it out...and will post it when I am done..Critiques are always nice.

Cheers and have a good weekend!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Stargate Universe series cast complete

Today finalized the full cast and launch date for the Stargate Universe series on Sci-Fi channel.

As we previously noted, Robert Carlyle, actor extraordinaire and master of feelings (this man can cry at the drop of a hat, which is not always done well by male actors.) plays a major pivotal role. More of the cast has been filled out with various actors from other shows and movies (a range from 24, Smallville, Saw the movie, etc...).
Today two more names were announced you may know.

Lou Diamond Phillips and Ming Na.

It has been a while since Lou Diamond has had any major success. It seemed like he was on the fast track after parts in La Bamba, Stand and Deliver and Young Guns. I dare you to look at the roles he has played since and see if anything really stands out...I think we will agree. Not so good. He is cast as Colonel Telford, the leader of the expedition.

Then Ming Na, an ER alum, will be filling the part of an IOA member, part of the Stargate oversight committee. She has actually been more prominent lately in voice over work in animation and video games.

As well, the date has been pegged, with a two hour movie to hit in October. Of note, one of the links above is to the wiki page, and they list episode names. I find it cool that each episode has been named after an element, and then one episode after is named "Time".

The best part I have read about the series is there will not be one pivotal enemy. Thus, no major bad guy type thing the other shows did. I think I rather enjoy that bit of news...

Anyways, in closing, there is an awesome rundown of the character profiles and players on Joseph Malozzi's blog, producer and director for the SG and SGA series.
In that blog post, I need to mention one line....He says...

"late yesterday, Robert Carlyle delivered a performance in a key scene that was so outstanding it blew the doors off Stage 3 - and the entire crew away! “Masterful” would be one word to describe it. “Extraordinary” would be another. But I prefer to simply go with “Wow!”.

Oh yes...I know!

Age of Conan - Ymirs Progeny

Just a few screenshots of my battles against Frost Giants in the Northern section of Ymir's Pass.
I have been assigned the task to investigate the capture of the Frost Father.
As noted within my quest...



Shaman Aevar, still in his trance, told me of the chaining of the Frostfather beneath the ruins of Karutonia. He told me that in order to free the Frostfather, I must destroy the magical chains that bind him. Those chains cannot be breached by mortal weapons.

In order to breach the chains, I will need the Axe of Ymir - but before I can wield it, I must prove myself worthy.

Of interest, this story line has some interesting twists of Mythology based on the Nilfhelm stories...based on Norse myth.
You can actually read a piece here...As well, the stories of the Vanir are described within this story (scroll to the bottom and check out contents to read other chapters).

Further within the confines of this frozen region is a Shaman locked in the ice.



I need to free him of this misery. It took flames to melt the ice, then I needed to destroy him to let his spirit return whence it came.

The Giants are a hardy breed, and are much more difficult to kill than normal humans. Many strikes would be dealt to these oversized grunts, before they fell...



I grow close to solving the riddle of this region and what the screams of some distant Giant mean, as the whole world shakes from his rage.

I cannot wait to see what this mystery holds.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Age of Conan - Mythic beats Funcom to the punch

And this is not good at all.

Out of the veritable dry spell of MMO's last year, 2 games launched with a chance of success. They both, instead, fell down and went "Yuck!".

Age of Conan and Warhammer Online.

Recently though, Funcom had been making strides to try and get AoC going, as WAR took some blows, lost customers, and was starting to feel the downward spiral effect.
But, the recent patch has not done wonders for AoC, as more bugs presented themselves. Great content, great fixes, but, along with more issues...

Now, the final nail is about to be set.

Mythic introduces a very limited, but available trial offer.

Basically this will help fill up some empty servers, make starting areas look busy, and well, gives those who did not want to pay full box price a chance to see if they would like to.

And AoC? well...after leaving Testlive and seeing that DX10 is still a bust, and little bugs get left behind in fix up patches on the main servers...it really is becoming apparent that Funcom really does not have a grasp of this situation.

I hope Funcom comes to the realization that they need to get some type of trial going, or else, they can really say goodbye to the future of this game.

Age of Conan - A little peeved

So, of interest is an issue that really should not exist. But does, and still does after today's patch.
Introduced in patch 1.04, it seemed but a minor quibble at the time.

Every time a player logs in and has left Tortage, they log in to Midnight.

It seems the time scheduling of where the player character is at on the clock is always midnight on first log. This means that time is done client side and not server side.
So, lets say you login, and of course it starts at Midnight (dark in the Hyborian world), then a friend logs in say...2-3 hours later, Guess what..?

You will be at 5-6 am or later, and they will be at...you guessed it...Midnight.

Now, maybe this is not an issue to some, but with my limited play schedule, I can play for 1-2 hours and I am always playing in the dark. Dark looks cool and all that, but not all the time. No sunlight, no cool shadows on the ground...

I do not know about you, but for me, that is just depressing.

Thoroughly disappointed that this bug stayed in from last patch. Not winning anyone over with these types of problems.

Which brings me to the infamous "Thread Deletions" on the main AoC forums. It seems in the last patch for the Testlive server, they decided to "stealthily" remove DX10. No warning.
This started some speculation, and I decided to post asking why it was removed. This took maybe 2-3 hours before it was deleted.

Felt almost conspiratorial.

Luckily it was added back in, and a Dev finally stepped in to explain the issue, but only after he saw that this was being discussed on other forums due to the fact that in the last financial report DX10 was missing from the future updates list.

This all comes back to the "Midnight" bug I originally discussed in this post. I did the same thing and asked why this was not on the known issues list, and that thread was closed.

So, how does one look at a company when you enjoy their game, but the overall feeling is careless development and hard stern rules of discussion of issues. It is almost like a Nazi regime.

I don't know about you, but I get to feeling uncomfortable hanging with Hitler all the time...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is "Innovation" dying in the MMO genre

Lets think about this. Where can MMO's go now. How can an MMO be "innovated" past the original mechanics.
Tabula Rasa tried with using non skill based shooting. AoC tried with wild swing combat and realtime combo mashers.
But, the rest of those games still have kill 10 x quests, go here to get this book, take a message to this guy, etc.

I got started on this when I read about Jumpgate today on Kotaku.

As stated on the report...

What Needs Improvement?
It's STILL an MMO: A fetch-quest in space is the same as a fetch-quest in Azeroth; kill so many X, and bring me this many Y. I understand there's a need for basic monotonous quests to grind with in order to upgrade ships, characters, mounts, etc. But couldn't the "why I need you to bring me rat-butts" expository text be more interesting? Maybe then I'll actually read it before clicking through it with that glazed look in my eye.


And so, it goes. And guess what...the rest of this years offerings are all the same thing.

So, I have to ask, am I comfortable with these meager options. Are you?
Yes, we still all play these games. No matter how much I wanted to give up on them, I still went back. But, I at least made a conscious decision to make sure something was different.
So, are the little changes enough to keep this genre going? What could the developer possibly change to bring about the next wave of MMO's that are unique?
FPS's on consoles have done it...but slowly. RTS's, well still the same with some small innovations (or are they changes now because innovation requires more massive changes...ARGH!)

Anyways, it looks like I am not alone in thinking maybe a total sea change is not possible...
Elder Game has a post about "Innovation or History?" Where he calls out Tobold (who is also discussing this issue)...

"He (Tobold)seems pleased that the developers of both Darkfall and Age of Conan tried to do something new with combat, but notes that the lack of targeting in Darkfall especially doesn’t do the game any real favors because it is too easy to exploit."

He then goes on to say..

"But now that Age of Conan and Darkfall are doing it, untargeted combat is considered “innovation”."

Is it? Or just a minor change to a same old mechanic. All I know is thanks to AoC's semi-real time combat system, I cannot go back to the old ways, no matter how much I try. Was this enough of a change in the genre to motivate other companies to follow suit and try to change the Press 1, Refresh, Press 2, Refresh combat?

And if they do, is that not an innovation of the genre? I guess maybe we need to state these are just evolutions.

Maybe the genre cannot innovate...maybe it does not know how.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Age of Conan - Turmoil and a CEO buy up

What a wild day for Funcom.

Their 4th Quarter reports hit today with a shockwave of loss and dismay. There was good news hidden within, but it was hard not to look at their numbers and see pain!

First, for a brief synopsis, check out Broken Toys..

"Funcom announces $23 million loss last quarter based on $22 million depreciation of Age of Conan expenses, CFO resigns."


This of course started a riot on the forums as the "Fail" train took off in full force.

Disaster I tell ya!!!

The next announcement was of the current CFO leaving. Actually leaving for another "industry"...WTF? First Gaute Godager, the original game director leaves gaming, now the CFO!

But, in other news, revenues were up 6.8 million compared to the previous quarter, and customer retention is now stable, and players are staying subscribed longer and playing more often..(bet it has to do with...oh I don't know...being able to run longer than 2 hours...)...now, if we could read MORE players coming back...maybe next time.

Anyways, as pundits of the 13 year old persuasion were throwing financial's around like they knew what it all meant (I am 46 and I sure don't...lol), the stocks closed today with a surprise announcement..

"The CEO of FunCom, Trond Arne Aas, bought 250 000 FC stocks before Oslo stock exchange closed today."

WHA!!!!

Why would he buy such a huge amount of stocks unless he knows something we don't? I researched why a CEO would buy stocks and it all boils down to "confidence". Hmmm.

Does the main dude finally think he has let all the riff raff go, and now they can actually be a better company?

It was announced that AoC launched in Poland and Russia today (the Polish version was bought out by none other than CD Projekt...the awesome company who made The Witcher)...maybe they are seeing good results there?

All I know is this just all became really weird...and to top it off...I racked up an amazing 47 hours last week in game..



I have not done that since my GW days way back...

The latest patch introduced some weird bugs, so I am praying those get fixed, and hopefully DX10, then a winback program. AoC COULD actually get it's act together..

Hope so, as I am having too much fun to quit (at least until Resident Evil 5 comes out in 3 weeks, then I will take a rest and cut back on my time...)

Cheers

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nothing to say

I am slamming more time into AoC thanks to my 3 character roster, so I do not have too much to add..
But, I do have this little screenie which shows what advancements they have made on the game engine optimization. I was flabbergasted over this..


(EDIT: Picture link fixed)

Zoom in to the upper left of that pic. Yes...that does say 142FPS...oh yes indeed...!!

Later folks

Friday, February 20, 2009

Age of Conan - Attaining new heights

It is official. AoC has become the first game with the highest level character of any MMO I have played, exceeding LOTRO (45) WoW (52) and EQ2 (58).

Amatheon, my main, has reached level 60!! (fanfare and a cheer!)



Having finished some quests in the Eiglophian Mountains. He has now entered Ymirs Pass.



Several unique quests here, with of course a finale that is totally freakin cool! (I can't believe I am stooping to teenage talk to implore upon you, my audience, the magnitude of the finale...ah well, to be or not to be eh?)

First up, a strange swamp dweller has been trapped by the humans here. He resides in a cage, and states he is pain. He does not actually seem "evil"...I, of course, offer to help.



In my travels, I happen upon a camp, and tied to a tree, a poor warrior woman is in the last throes of life. I plan to avenge her suffering...



I am unsure of what dangers lie within this construct. But, it sure does make for one kickass screenshot........POSE!



Anyways, upon reaching level 60, I return home to don some new armor that has been waiting for me...snazzy.



_________________________________________

A few quick notes about patch 1.04.

After a few issues needing some quick hotfixes before the weekend, the patch is in full swing.
The global chat has been wild with discussion of the new loot tables. A major boon, this offering has fixed a quibble about tons of junk "white" weapons and armor filling up bags. Now we get cool little stackable baubles.

The next fix is an update to standard equipment. Better stats for example, and some items with new looks for more variety.
Most chests will drop killer green items, and I had more jeweled chests (I had 2 drop last night for example) dropping some awesome blues.
Some of the new changes are being listed on the YG database site, which tracks all items in game.
The Royal Soldier Hauberk is one that has changed for the better. Look below on the page and you will see a tab called "Item History", which shows improved enhancements to stats and armor.

Changes have been done to many aspects of the game. From simple things like timers for food and buffs listed under icons to changes in the visual quality of trees (pine trees for example had more realistic pines).

Class changes have taken place, with the largest change in the one who needed it the most, the Dark Templar. This is probably the most unique class and fun to play, thanks to it's Vampiric like qualities and life and mana taps. As well, they are the perfect off tank (or could have been, and thanks to the patch are now). Oh, and Amatheon is one.
The fact that I was able to take on 2-3 mobs 2-3 levels higher than me sold me on this class big time.

More Voice Overs were added. Not sure how many, as I have only found one so far..

The leveling curve has pretty much been rectified. Some complaints of too much grinding was noted, but now thanks to the new content, 20-80 looks to be working well.
I have two characters who are lower level who I am taking through and they should be able to get a feel for this new questing system.

As more thoughts come up, I will post about them.

As a final note, the client does have the DX10 code in place, and is ready to be turned on once bugs are worked out on Testlive, so progress is going forward.

All I know is I am having a blast with my new playstyle and AoC is proving to be an admirable PvE game.

More screenies are coming soon..

Cheers

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Darkfall - Firefighters in full force

These things go in cycles. From back during EQ2's launch, and the many issues associated with the game, to Vanguard and being tagged the worst launch and worst MMO, to Tabula Rasa, AoC as the most hated MMO...

And this week, an NDA lift makes Darkfall the target of many a blog and forum.

I posted several videos in awe of how bad it looks. Animations seem very 1997, as well as visual quality not being up to snuff.
But, as Tipa stated, she and many others play Everquest still, and enjoy themselves.

Anyways, these postings started the sirens, and along came the Firefighters....those who need to rage against any poster stating anything in the negative about the game...

Lets back up though...

First we do know the game is a mix of UO, Oblivion, EvE with open "sandbox" playstyle. This means to me FFA body looting, no objectives but to kill, with many hours of player downtime (due to population issues).

Of course, as has been noted quite "tersely" by Firefighter Jeff , maybe I have not played it. He would be right. So, how do I know if I want to play this game or not.

It all boils down to the sales material.

So, this is why the first bit of "advertising" for Darkfall equals fail. The presentation is not up to snuff, with huge landscapes of nothing (Vanguard), and the visual quality of an EQ wannabe.

So, what else could the game offer? I have not been sold yet. But, as has been noted, the Firefighters would rather rail against the poster of the blog, than present something more admirable or in some manner show how the game may be worth the look.

So far, all I do know is the game director is egotistical and believes the game is already ready to launch...even though the game is not having a "full" launch.
No sale there.
Ugly visuals, creaky animations, bad sound effects
No sale there.

So, for the many commenter who believes this is just a rail, why not tell me how it is then. NDA is gone, but all I see is defense, not reasons.

Usually when someone is defensive, they have something to hide...

Perfect example: Beauturkeys blog (and the particular blog post I linked here). He lets loose with an expletive epitaph of nerd rage that is highly amusing to read, seeing he is doing what he is railing against all other bloggers for doing.

But, guess what, this just turns me off from the game even more. That was not a normal firefighter approach...that just burned down all the Redwoods of California...not good firefighting there.

I digress. I do not know just how wonderful this game is, as I see more hate or rants than reasons. This just makes me want to avoid the game more. Not just because the GD is a dick or that the fans are dicks, or even that the haters are dicks...

Guess this just calls for a song now....until someone convinces me otherwise that Darkfall is worth the time or effort....enjoy


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Darkfall - Video 2 - Is this fun?

Someone noted in my previous post that I "cherry picked" a bad video, so I went and found one of these "beautiful" videos...

And does it look fun?



I do not think so.

Darkfall - A vision of fail

I do not care how many times someone spouts "Indie" developer or "Sandbox" game. I cannot force myself to play in something like this.

Anyways, today the NDA was lifted for Darkfall, and there is a release date. With that, one guild released a nice little video to show just how ugly this game still looks.
This is not 1997. Darkfall would have been great at that time...but now, this is pitiful.
Enjoy...

Age of Conan - The Beautiful Intro

Sung by Helene Bøksle live!




And the new patch is live!!!!!!!!!!

Age of Conan - Patch notes and expectations

Wednesday is the first major content patch, along with some major overhauls of the systems in place in AoC. I wanted to review some of these here...(complete notes at this link)

NEW DUNGEONS
  • Cradle of Decay is a level 43 group instance which can be accessed through the Field of the Dead.
  • The Slaughterhouse Cellar is a level 80 single player instance located in Thunder River just south of the palisades area.
  • Xibaluku is a level 80 group instance located in Thunder River on the prison island. There is a quest pre-requisite to enter this area. You can begin this quest by speaking to General Lupercus in Thunder River. (This quest will send you into the The Slaughterhouse Cellar to obtain items).
  • Black Ring Citadel, Wing 3 is a level 80 raid instance that can now be accessed from Kheshatta between the entrances to Wing 1 and Wing 2.
A sore subject for some has been endgame content. The bosses that were present had several bugs in the encounters as well, so to do anything endgame became difficult (but not impossible, as several major raids were being done on a regular basis..). Along with the major content added above (I love that all areas were covered...solo, small group, large group), but the bugged encounters have now been fixed. This means twice as much endgame material.

But, this is not all for endgame..

PVP/ MASSIVE PVP
  • This update introduces a new type of crafting resources. These new resources can be found in Border Kingdoms, Cimmerian End. The resources are used to build and repair battlekeeps and player shave a chance to drop them when they die in PvP. The recipes required can be found in the NPC camps located in this playfield.
Basically PvP endgame become a loot drop instance (but only resources). This makes for a competitive zone with players working to gather these resources through conflict. This makes the PvP system an admirable play style.
Now, there were complaints about issues with the PvP system due to some exploits in the overall scheme. These issues have been fixed...including splash damage exploits and guard exploits for low/high level encounters.
Many more fixes as well in PvP. Enhancements to PvP minigames has also been done with an overhaul of the interface and join system for those who wish to PvP on a PvE server.

Quite a few class balance changes have been done, UI changes, and..one of my personal favorites for this patch...

ITEMS
  • Treasure Chests throughout Hyboria have been improved and filled with more loot!
This is also noted as being a rather large patch, which should make repairs to clients if they have crashed and a new checking tool for finding client corruption issues to prevent re-downloading patches which would happen on rare occasions.

This is the first MAJOR patch for Funcom, and I will be watching to see how this progresses. Previous patches had caused issues when Gaute was on board as no QA seemed to be going on. Craig is a whole different player here, and is more concerned about AoC's health. This should be great stuff.

I have Craig's twitter in my Blog list on the right (Silirrion), and hopefully we should see updates from him on a regular basis.

Excitement is an understatement today...so I will be playing later today and hopefully get some more info to you.

Cheers

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Age of Conan - Patch 1.04 hits

Wednesday is the day, Feb. 18th. With a major content influx, major fixes and some high end content for those who stuck it out...seems there is a lot to like here.
As notes are posted, I will try to cherry pick the faves and get you an update.
Supposedly this will spell the start of patch 1.05, which has been cited to have DX10, and gear revamps as well as free returns for original players.

But, I am getting ahead of myself...lets wait and see what is in store tomorrow...

Cheers

Monday, February 16, 2009

Seven least favorite things - LOTRO

Now, of course, I was so nice and positive yesterday, I decided to come back today with my 7 Negatives!
The game of choice will be Lord of the Rings Online.
The simple reason? This proved to be my least favorite MMO game of all time...even moreso than Vanguard, which at least has some redeeming qualities.

Without further ado...

1. Quests - Quests are good...but so many silly little quests to do much of nothing combined with some quite boring kill x quests and fetch quests...and with it being the best way to level, you were stuck or else...Do quests or grind til you die. Then lets not start on the main storyline being forced grouping or else, back to grind.
2. Character models - Even WoW's cartoony visuals have an appeal that the models of LOTRO do not. Matted drawn on hair for beards, oversized hands, homely females, along with their painted on clothing. Then do not start me on the infamous "30FPS animations in a 60FPS world"
3. Animations - Ok...nevermind, I will start. With the various issues of how the characters look to be flailing about when swinging their weapons, run from the hip in an odd fashion, the fluidity of so many other games is not present in these animations.
4. Crafting - So annoying, it forces me to go into downtime to gather so many mats, then once I get the mats, I need more mats to combine with the mats I spent wasting time to get. Then I can stand in front of an object, hit make, and fall asleep. Entertainment.
5. Mob Variety - Never have I seen so many of the same skins used over and over..from human faces for bad guys, to the infamous bears and wolves. I really hate BEARS BTW!
6. UI - Talk about a crappy UI. It may be functional for players needs, but it is NOT friendly with large monitors. The fonts shrink to unreadable status, the toolbar if resized does not have 1 to 1 pixel mapping, and becomes blurry, as it does not have matching resolution sized bars (i.e: the toolbar is a max of 1280x1024, anything larger has to stretch that image, thus making it blurry and ugly).
7. Community - Thats right, the one thing the game is know to be great for, also has an issue of having fervent fans who cannot see past these issues, and still think LOTRO is a good game. It is not, with WoW like conventions, crappy animations, and bad quest design. But, try to suggest changes, and watch the rabid boys go wild with name calling, etc.

But, hey, the game has pretty landscapes. If I could count how many times I read this, I could vomit.
All I can say is at least Turbine is committed to this product, and updates are on a regular basis, and the fans love it..(not what I can say for some other games...*cough* WAR, AOC *cough*)
But, no matter how many times I have returned, the game fails to me on so many levels...so it gets my vote for the 7 worst game conventions...

Cheers

Seven Favorite Things - Guild Wars

Kill Ten Rats has started a little meme about their 7 favorite things in an MMO...specifically about Warhammer. The original from Syp was a favorite 7 things about Warhammer period.

KTR is the one who challenged us to do this for any game we like.

I have decided to do mine on Guild Wars.

Why did I pick this instead of my current favorite? As nothing has compared. There are so many things this game did right compared to the competition, that I just am glad to experienced such a title.
Anyways, why don't you do the same...and state your 7 favorite things about your favorite games, and lets make today all positive...shall we?

My 7 favorite things about Guild Wars
1. The Story - Right off the bat, whether people hate or love this mechanic, the story is gripping and well done. The game also has an ending, which makes working towards a goal more prominent...thus making the game more fun, with the need to continue to find out what the end involves...
2. The Visuals - Released about the same time as WoW, the game showed that you did not need to have cartoons to play within the roles you defined. The world had unique locations, and the instancing allowed a level a detail that still looks incredible to this day.
3. The Combat - Fast, furious, and thanks to a skill system that kept you thinking, every time you were out and about, fighting mobs could be different.
4. The Henchmen - And now Heroes, you the player were not limited by "When is my guild going to log" or "I need to find a group to run that dungeon"...this also became like a mini game in learning how to progress with computer controlled AI...which a majority of the time worked better than the humans anyways. It added almost an RTS feel to combat.
5. The Price - How could we not say it. Pay one price for the box, and never a monthly. And thanks to the chapterized setup, we got regular content on a regular basis.
6. Gear Reliance - Was a non-issue. Thanks to the no raid scenario, the player had the capability to get the best stuff whether alone or with 6-8 players. Persistence was key to getting cool stuff thanks to the rewards system for collectibles.
7. Crafting - Which has become a detriment to so many games. GW made it so that your need to stop all the combat and fun to go get resources, and experience boring downtime, was avoided. This could be expanded, but always made me realize that crafting was one of my most hated MMO conventions...that I even avoid it completely in my latest games...until someone makes it fun and easy again.

Have a good day!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

February 14th

Really, a day like any other day. But, someone decided to take a day from a historical perspective, and create this day for one to tell another of their love and devotion.

I have truly been blessed with a woman who tries so hard to make sure we do not go all crazy with flowers ("They die anyways") or shower each other with gifts (This year we both looked at each other and said "Lets buy the best coffee travel mugs we can get for each other", so, we did research and found a Thermos model and shopped Ebay together)...

But how blessed?

From that first day we saw each other, as we decided to meet halfway at a restaurant after exchanging emails and phone calls. From that day that we both thought we were silly for using an Internet dating service, and believed "This is crazy...no one meets over the Internet"...
To the moment when you drove up, stepped out of your car, and I saw that sparkle in your eye. That girlish smile of that beautiful woman who stayed close to me as we talked... enamored me...
Through the time we dated, and learned of the many differences yet commanalities we shared..

You were country, I was rock and roll...

Our love grew.

But, through those moments, we also thought this was not what we wanted...you were unsure due to previous relationships, as it was the same for me..

Until that day that my eyes were opened after an almost fatal car crash...

From that special "country" marriage, where you were barefoot. I wore simple sandals...you had flowers in your hair. We were in an empty country church, a relic of the past, now but a seasonal tourists spot, hidden away in the trees. A small affair with but a few of your friends, who became my friends (as I was a thousand miles away from my home)...
And this became my home, and my family.
After so many years, ones feelings may change, yet every day is like a honeymoon to me...I never know what to expect as you always surprise me..
And when you look at me and tell me you love me, it is not due to We Must say it, but because WE DO feel it.

I love you more now than I ever have, or maybe ever will...

But, then tomorrow will come, this little day of February 14th will be over and I will think all of these things again, because a Hallmark holiday is not the only day I wish to say....

I love you with all that I am and all that I will ever be.

But, Happy Valentines Day anyways................
_____________________________________

And with that interlude.....

Cheers fellow readers.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Aion - Late year release corroborated

Kill Ten Rats is backing up a post I discussed earlier from the Aionsource forums.
Seems the cat is out of the bag, and it is ALL bad news for NCSoft and their games.

Aion will not launch til Q4 09, and GW2 is estimated around 2010-2011.
Now, if you look at the data in the zip file linked here, you will note somethings of interest.
More sales and subscribers are from Korea...and both L1 and L2 is HUGE.
Also, if you look at the GW2 listing for launch, the 2010-2011 marker also says TBA.

This is a horrible sign, and meets my expectations for 2009 as I have stated unequivocally.

2009 is not a good year for MMO's.

Nothing on the horizon meets any expectation of being good, and I do believe the genre will be lax...even to the extreme of needing a reboot in 2010.
Consoles will be a major flow of cash for developers, and the PC may wallow away with some titles launching across the board (meaning, the game will most likely be a Console/PC title, not JUST a PC title)...with that rare indie game or MMO for the PC hitting bargain bins in record time.

NCSoft, I hope Korea will be enough as the US audience will dwindle away...

Good luck with this, and everyone else have a good weekend!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday tidbits

Whew...quite a scare yesterday. I am currently writing from my radiation free bunker...all of my Penthouse, Playboy and various DVD's (Buxom Beauties and Amateurs Gone Wild are worse for wear though...) are ready to go.
Hopefully this will blow over soon...

Anyways, some various tidbits.

Amatheon in Age of Conan has reached level 57, and has entered the new zone, Ymir's Pass. When I entered, the visual beauty of this section of the world, with it's autumn like leaves, and various mountain passes was exhilarating. Then a large thunderous smash shook the screen, and a loud roar could be heard. A mystery indeed.
As I travel, screenshots and stories of my adventures will be posted, so stay tuned.

More info was released yesterday on the NCSoft issues. Seems some of the jobs are being "moved" to the US offices (thank goodness). Of course, this is still bad news for the EU office, as those positions have been liquidated, and will be reborn within the US offices.
Does this mean the people leave EU and move to the US if they wish? A lot of "between the lines" wording going on here...
You can read the blurb and decipher as you like at Gameindustry.biz.

In case anyone even thinks about this anymore...Chronicles of Spellborns US site has been redesigned to match the EU version. Yet, they still missed their January launch date, and ZERO information has been posted for even a beta launch.
Talk about a major fubar on Acclaims part. The Historian was really off target each time he said word would come "soon".
Too sad.
I think this is the first Vaporware Launch game I have ever known about...

I plan to take the plunge and add another Horror Survival to my list of games until the launch of Resident Evil 5 (which I have played the Demo to death, and have found the best control scheme for myself).
We decided to play around with the new version of Alone in the Dark for the PC and 360 (demo). Supposedly it has some issues with how it plays in the control scheme ("Oh look Ma, another Horror Survival game with complaints about controls"), but we honestly think it is workable, and it definitely looks good, and has some really killer (giggle, pun) ways to off the various baddies.

Anyways...off for now...but never know what today will offer in the way of discussion...

Cheers

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thats it...End of the world is now

This article says it all. I am now entering my bomb shelter, and saying goodbye cruel world.

Porn needs a bailout

Aion - Bad signs all around

Two bits of news on this today.

First, reading a post on MMORPG got me redirected to the Aion Source website. There a discussion of a post in Korean has some speculation about the release dates of Aion.
The article referenced is translated, and we know there are always issues with this.
The wording of the post states...

In short:
Japan goes first (because of faster localization).
So, here's the plan: Korea (running) -> China (beta) -> Japan (summer) -> Taiwan (fall?) -> US/EU (Q4 2009) -> etc.
US/EU estimate: Q4 2009

So, that sounds pretty bad. But, is it true?

Of note, this post on Aion Source ended up being moved to the Graveyard. This is a special little place that posts from the General sections are placed when they wish to make a conversation die in it's tracks...yet, it never does...

Speculation ensues...is it true?

But, so far, the mod continues to pop in, and based on his response, he believes between March to May of 09 is the release date.

Anyways, I was unsure of how I felt about this...then today, another post...A News Story...on MMORPG pops up.
More layoffs for NCWest who is responsible for translations on Aion. Now, this is the EU office. This was a joint US/EU venture...and it looks like a skeleton crew has been left behind...(read the original post here at Gameindustry.biz with some corrections).

Now, I do not want to think doom...but it sure is hard not to.

No news on Guild Wars 2, no new news on Aion...go to the NCSoft page and the news is dated for 2008 (nothing new in 09, and of course all they discuss is City of Heroes...which will probably waste away once Champions and DC Universe launches)...talk about some disaster.

The fact recent news has been quoted stating the Korean government is actually spending extra cash on companies who develop games there, I am starting to think that the US offices may eventually disappear.
I mean, their only cash cow is CoH/CoV...and that is not very good in respect to cash flow vs expenditure..Lineage 2 has no major US audience...and GW is free besides the box, and with no new content lately for GW..we can kiss new player purchases goodbye.

I am starting to think GW2 may never arrive or may go to a new publisher...who knows..

NCSoft is in a pickle though...sad day!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Monday, February 9, 2009

Age Of Conan - Entering Black Castle

In the depths of the Stygian desert lies a castle atop a mound of sand. So close to the sun, the rock used to construct this structure have turned black as coal.
Thus, it's name...The Black Castle.

The castle is believed to guard the River Styx against foreign marauders. The internals of the Castle are full of traps and puzzles. This makes for an interesting group encounter.
It must be noted that you need a minimum of 4 players here, but 6 is best...and for a low level dungeon, the quests are challenging for sure.

Tetlana arrived with a group of various adventurers, including a Tempest of Set, a Ranger, a Rogue, and a Bear Shaman. Not the typical Tank/Spank group.


The Bear Shaman and the Tempest provided heals, while the Ranger, Rogue and myself provided DPS. I also had a small group of pet based minions to help take down mobs quickly.

There are 5 boss wings within this castle. All mobs are the above average mobs, meaning they require a group to defeat, or a higher level (+5 levels higher) can take out maybe one at a time.


As we journey deeper into the castle, all sorts of mobs start to appear, like these slithering terrors. I really enjoy that there are quite a few different mob variations within the world. I keep finding more that are not copies of other mobs that so often happens in MMO's.


One point during an encounter of a boss called a Malefic Mutation.


There are several cool puzzles, with one which became a pain until we got some help. Seems one room has a large eye of Set that watches over a room. If you try to walk through the sunlight in that room beaming from the Eye, prepare to die horribly.
Seems we need to block the light from the Eye to prevent this disaster...

It took about 2 hours to complete this run, with some decent blue gear drops as well.

The fact this dungeon has a more "puzzle" like nature (which is the norm for some of these group based instances) made it quite fun to run.

The next dungeon is the Sanctum, which is a level 36+ instance. I will hopefully have some shots of that soon..

Cheers

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Adventures in music

Today I spent some time uploading the material I have been working on in my studio.
Strictly instrumentals, using various tools, including an Ibanez RG Tremelo guitar and Bass, Roland DS6 electronic drumkit, Acid Music and Sonic Foundry software, with a Bluegears 7.1 DD sound card, you have some Openedge music.
(some loading issues are occurring, please bear with me)
Below are some MP3's I have to share.

Red Running - Openedge Music

Ambient Supplication - Openedge Music

(Had to delete some problematic songs, so please watch the Blip.fm at the top for more tunes..)

More soon! Please let me know your thoughts!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Age Of Conan - Here comes the patch...here comes the..

Thats right...sing along with me..
Trying to finish up my work, I took a break to dip into the AoC forums, and got some major news...

Patch 1.4 in about 2 weeks.

1.4 is a MAJOR addition, as high level raids (two) will be added. As well, a new wing to a major location, The Black Ring Citadel. This is the home of Thoth-Amon, considered Conan's fiercest enemy.
A level 43 dungeon will be added (which will fill out group content for the 40's) along with these major additions.

More fixes are to be included in this patch, including class updates for all, and fixes to the UI for feedback for players...and of course, more stability fixes.

My only concern is DX10, which is still not ready...but I seem to have forgotten about that feature in all the fun.

Future discussions are already underway thanks to the survey I mentioned in my last post, that, of all things, housing could actually be added in the Guild Cities.

AoC is directly looking at it's PvE crowd here, and that is a good move in my opinion. I hope this roll continues.

Off for now...1 hour left to work out my research...

CYA!

Brief Intermission

As I have stated, recently my wife has been down and out due to a surgery. A Laproscopic procedure. It is considered outpatient.

This is not to say it is not extremely painful.

If you are as morbid as my wife, why not check out some videos, and see the amazing skills of the surgeons in these examples of Abdomen Hernia Repair, which she got to enjoy.
This particular video shows them laying mesh inside the abdomen to hold the hernia in place...oh boy. YUCKY!!, but amazing at the same time.

Impressive stuff.

Due to this, I have been babysitting quite a bit. Luckily, as I was at home, I had a chance to run some game time in AoC. I have a story of the Black Castle of Stygia coming up...

But, I am slammed for work now, as I leave the wife alone for the first time in 3 days, so I will hopefully have a chance to write this up soon.

For now...it is ramble time.

Returning shows make their mark during our off time this week.

Heroes came back, and almost felt like a reboot. What was interesting is that as I watched it, I noticed a hint of how the story was progressing, and camera work (how close ups were done, etc.) were...all different. Even the story felt a tinge more in depth for our main characters (I was so excited that no NEW Hero was introduced...big win).
I thought I noticed a name as one of the producers...and sure enough, in the list of names.
Mark Verheiden
He of Battlestar fame, he is one of the co-executive producers for BSG as well.
His history is unqiue (having done a Dark Shadows remake that was never shown on regular TV in 2004, and worked on the oh so cool Timecop...lol)...but, he has had writing credit on "The Mask"...woot.
Anyways, I was impressed, as it felt "new". I hope it keeps this line of story, and can make a comeback.
Medium also has returned...Patricia Arquette is truly awesome (and HOT).
And this weekend we finally have Episode 1 and 2 of LOST to see where that is going.

Another show we found (I REALLY cannot tell you how, or else I will have ta' kill ya') is called Being Human. A BBC 3 production (BBC is the more "adult" oriented network, where Torchwood is shown...).
Talk about an ultra cool hour.
Take a Vampire, who is friends with a Werewolf, and they move into a house to try and be "normal", and they find a Ghost living in that house...and you have a very unique "Soap Opera"...
Oh yes...I said that.
Even though there is that tinge of Buffy and Angel here, there is NOT the campy feel. This is serious stuff (especially when we find out that Vampires record themselves killing others, and send DVD's to other Vampires as a way of "Snuff" porn...)..
It is interesting as the various characters try to live in normality, yet dealing with their problems in a soap opera way.
Relationships, friends, love, hate...oh yea, and some looming sort of impending doom...but, hey, a Vampire and a Ghosts lips can almost seem to...touch...hmmm...
"It was cold...kinda like you just stepped in from outside..."

Oh boy...

All I can say, take a bunch of pretty brits, put them together, and see how their acting skills make US based actors of soaps look like they just entered acting school..add some great hip music, with quicks slips of skin viewable in various scenes..

This is one sexy and fun show...

(Sci-Fi network...please check this out NOW!)

Anyways....enough of that TV crap.

Gaming.

Why is it that WAR seems "doomed" nowadays, yet AoC is experiencing a resurgence?

Can the lower cost of development have saved AoC from certain death?

At almost half the cost, AoC sold more boxes than WAR in the same time period of 08...so, is it possible that this cash flow helped Funcom overall defeat a fate worse than death?
Especially when EA is chopping jobs left and right...will Mythic be able to survive their loss?
I personally think a resurgence will occur for the "Live" expansion. But, complaints are still present for how the game has progressed.
The biggest surprise though is a recent survey done (these surveys have been part of AoC's progression actually) for AoC. Here is a link to the survey.
It seems a larger percentage of players are doing PvE in AoC, even though it is not it's focus.
I think this is another reason AoC seems more ready to at least hold players, especially with new Raid dungeons on the way, and new quests and content.

AoC is a better PvE game than WAR...and this could also be the key to AoC's survival.

Anyways...enough rambling...need to do some work research (have you ever tried to raise funds for a Non-profit through donations during an economic crisis? Do not envy my job!!!!!!!!!)...but, I also wish to do the write up for Black Castle...(an excellent adventure indeed)

More later folks.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Age of Conan - Meet your cast


Tetlana - Necromancer, Stygian. Vile sorceries have been cast upon her soul, so that legions of the dead are at her beck and call.


Colthar - Cimmerian Ranger. Arrows fly straight and true, finding their mark and raining death upon the fields of battle.


Amatheon - Aquilonian. A master of the dark art of bloodletting and soul taps. His touch will drain the health from his enemies, and make a lifeless husk from their flesh.

And so we have our complete line up for the various regions of Hyperboria.
Each travel a unique road in this land, and attempt to make their mark. Varying skills of combat create a unique combination of play times.

As I adventure, their stories will unfold. Share those times with me...a time of legend and myth...the time of Conan.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Temporary respite

As the wife continues to deal with the pain of a large laproscopic surgery (large, as in, the amount of movement, shoving of internal flesh, etc, to place a piece of mesh inside the body, leaves one in severe agony, and drugged beyond all compare), I have but a fleeting moment to comment on the past few days of news..

WAR announces they have 300k subs. My data still holds firm that no MMO is worth the effort. Yes, this may be profitable, but is this really what EA wanted? I do not think so. Based on this number, I am hard pressed to place AoC at no more than 100k. They have had an upswing since the merges, and Famine (Funcom CM) just reported on the MMORPG forums that they plan trials and free returns soon, which could increase this a bit more. But, to think it has anymore than that would be ludicrous.
My theory that no MMO today can get a million scrips is still solid at least. The efforts of the developers is just "Lets get one out" whether it is good or not. I expect 2009 to be even worse with no major title release...and to anyone who thinks Star Trek or Champions Online will be a hit...lol at you.

So Hellgate has already died. No news on Hanbitsoft's discussion of a Free 2 play model. Make sure to check out Scott's last day report on Pumping Irony.

LOTRO proves that if you advertise it, they will come. In a massive surge, Xfire numbers for LOTRO have spiked placing the game at #11 yesterday (this will change after today). This is the highest the game has ever placed on the Xfire chart (launch saw it go no higher than 14). But, hey, tell people they can win prizes, and anyone will do anything.
All I know is people still prove that LOTRO is a nice casual (and sleepy) game.

Ok, off to care for the wifey...CYA.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

AFK Today

Wife is going to get surgery...nothing major, but I am out of commision today...
Everyone else have a good day!

Age of Conan - Charting the progress of hate

What I find interesting is how the "HATE" wagon for "Failcom" is still rolling along at several forums...especially MMORPG.com. So many posts full of outdated information, constant attacks and jokes about the company...pretty sad.
Funcom does deserve some of it, but what is most amusing is when the information is so outdated or even totally incorrect.

A poster was recently attacking an OP of a post about the population increasing on the servers. Of course, the OP's proof, besides his own eyes, is using Xfire to track this data.
This has brought in the riders of the hate train in full force, ridiculing the data.
We have shown in the past that the data can be pretty accurate. Not perfect, but accurate enough to gauge a "trend" in popularity of a game.

A good example is for WAR. It of course has held a high spot on the Xfire charts for quite a while. But, if we study the data closely, we do see something of interest.
Here is a screen cap I got for WAR on December 19th. Note the number of users at 4234.


Now we can look at Feb 2nd (a Sunday, the most populated day for all of the MMO's on Xfire...), we see a new result. Not only has the game dropped on the chart several spots, but has also lost a player base of 335 players. This does not sound like a lot, but, when you use the system that compares WoW users vs. other MMO's, we take that number and multiply it by about 10 to 15 to get a total loss in players.


It is not rocket science, but gives us a "trend"

Now, using previous data I have used to track Conan's progress in the charts, something has started to take form. The work Funcom is doing to fix their launch issues (and thanks to Craig Morrison, who helped take Anarchy Online out of a fate worse than death...and is now working on AoC), we see something start to happen...
First I will start with an image I took when I started playing with Xfire data for AoC.



This image was taken on Dec. 7th of 08. We can see a steady track of data here, with AoC averaging about 1,000 users plus and hitting in the low to mid 50's.

Next up is an image I took Jan 9th '09, a Friday and we can see a small upward trend happening in the game. We could attribute this to new purchases for Christmas, time cards, gifts, buddy passes...whatever.


My third image is for January 15th, which is the first full day after server merges., and boy do we see some happy players...
A major increase took place in overall player base and time played to crank the game up to #45 on the charts. Except for outages, this has been pretty consistent as well.


Now, we have rolled into February, and we have the first Sunday to see how AoC is doing overall in the charts. Sunday pretty much can verify the overall popularity of a game, as the most users will post to that game.
And with that, we have this chart...


I think I would call that an upward trend...how about you? Seems the fixes are working and the merges have solidified a good user base who wants to play.

Thats all for now...may have to start watching the charts more closely for some games and see how they progress...eh?

Cheers