Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Xfire follow up - Questionable?

Well, it looks like there was quite a bit of discussion on my Xfire stats vs subs post the other day.

Tipa at West Karana took it up over on her blog about how the numbers may be "questionable" for certain games, like EQ, EQ2 and even WoW.
Example: When I did a calc for WoW, I noted that they have a new sub rate of over 6 million players. This is difficult to fathom, as most of the stats have been mainly for the "West" and does not include any Asian or Persian countries.

Could WoW really have 6 million in the US alone?

No. I do not believe this. Just like my EQ2 numbers may also be misinformed.

There does seem to be a commonality in all games that are older and numbers being skewed somehow. For example, I do not question the stats for STO, WAR or AoC...not even Aion. Yet, all of these games have launched recently. EQ2? WoW? At least 5 years old.

So, could age have some factor in numbers being skewed or even 100% wrong?

Could there be a recurring theme of actual data and recent launches compared to numbers and older titles?

Lets take another game we know about that is a recent launch and see how it jibes with the Xfire data.

Free Realms.

Hmm. 8 players on Xfire. Now, doesn't this add another conundrum to the stats issue. Could this be due to the fact it is mostly "younger" players whose computer has been set up by a parent, thus why would that parent load Xfire. As well, is the Free Realms player a "pro" at gaming or even understand or NEED Xfire? Or does it have something to do with the free part?

What I think we may need to note is there is going to be a select group of games that we can track this way, and that not ALL titles will work. Many factors will go into playing the Xfire game.
Take this example of how issues may affect our numbers here. Just look at STO. It was but a few days ago there was a drop in numbers, almost to the point of being zeroed out. Seems some outage on the server or with Xfire caused this problem. So, for those days, my numbers would have been wonky. But, as we can see, this week STO has normalized again.

If I continue to play with this, we may have to accept the fact that the game must be a "commercial" subs based game (which throws Free Realms, Runes of Magic, etc, out), must be less than 3-4 years old (I would say at least launched in 2007 or later, thus no more EQ2 or WoW for example) and the data has to be consistent for the week; No weird outages or buggy reporting by Xfire for the whole week. Finally, as a little fun, I will only report on some games if they decide to do an Xfire contest to see how many people are logging in due to prizes or giveaways. Funcom and Turbine have been notorious for this in the past, and it really makes the numbers wonky.

I really think this will be fun to watch for NEW launches. I would like to see how some games do when first opened. Final Fantasy XIV launches this year (according to most rumors...). How will they do here? Right now FFXI does about 30k subs according to the Xfire game. Yet, it does not meet our criteria, thus these numbers are most likely skewed.

So, for now, all we can see in the Xfire game is a bit of fun with some newer games that hopefully gives us a glimpse of how well they are doing.


Monday, March 29, 2010

The Xfire Game

Last week, a small group of us had a Twitter-scussion over the validity of Xfire as a tool beyond the mere use as a glorified chat program.

Xfire has the capability to track players time in games of their choice. Though not perfect, it does give a glimpse of these players (people who load Xfire)  favorite games.
As far as MMO's are concerned, I feel it can be used to do more in respect to players and times.We can also track sub numbers for MMO's in a general capacity. This would be more in line of "paying" commercial based games, by either a large distributor or game developer.

So, a while back, I posted an article (2008) which took a noted news story about the current World of Warcraft population in the US and created a formula to help see how many players can be calculated in all other MMO's based on that formula. What happened is a pretty close and accurate picture of players in various MMO's, and since that time I still have been able to use that formula to this day. Check out the article to see a more in depth discussion of that calculation.

This really took flight when last week Cryptic noted just how many people were playing Star Trek Online. When I saw this, I thought it was time again to try the formula. What happened was a pretty scary comparison that was almost completely accurate to their posted numbers. Cryptic noted a 100k player base. I did my formula and got 96k almost 97k. This of course was based on a Wednesday reading. Sunday numbers are usually more accurate as this IS the busiest day for all MMO's. So, I thought, maybe we need to really do an in depth analysis using Sunday numbers.

Now, I never claimed that the numbers are 100%, accurate, They are a pretty close representation though of what has either been discussed by news pundits or forum goers for total subs of some MMO's. And if a company ever announces their numbers, as seen by the Cryptic count for STO, it can garner a pretty darn accurate calculation.
Since a lot of companies do not release this data, the "Xfire Game" has really become a good way to see just how well this works.

Today, I will do a run of the Sunday count for Xfire for several games being discussed lately. I pick these for the very reason we need a tool like Xfire and my calc. These companies have not, or do not release their numbers. If they do, it is rare.
As well, I will add Aion, as eventually we WILL get numbers (NCSoft does their numbers about once or twice a year), and of course STO, since we did get a report recently.

Lets see how they fare.

Star Trek Online
We will start here. As we KNOW how many are playing thanks to Cryptic's recent announcement of over 100k players, it will be a good jumping off point to see how our calc is working.

The calc rate is multiple the number of Xfire users x 120.05. Using the calc system we see - 980 x 120.05 = 117,649 subs. Over 100k. Interesting.

Next, I want to show a game that we know has a large population based on reports from NCSoft. Now, of course, most forum goers or blog gurus call this game a failure. I would beg to differ, and I believe Xfires data shows this.

Our calc system states...3864 x 120.05 = 463,873 subs. Basically almost as much as Lineage 2 had been stated to have at one point and time (over 600k in 2007). And as always since it's launch, in the top 10 on Xfire. Now, I am sorry, but this does NOT take into account how many of those subs are gold sellers...

Lord of the Rings Online
Over and over it has been stated that LOTRO is a good "200k" sub game. I for one believe it, and Xfire really corroborates this.

Calc says? 1780 x 120.05 = 213,689 subs. Still a good sub rate and steady. Wish Turbine would just come out and tell us. For me, I think a company should be proud of that many players in todays MMO market. Since I have been doing these calcs, LOTRO has consistently done this number of players...except when they release an expansion, then there is a jump.

Age of Conan
A lot of discussion has been traveling the blogosphere as well as the forums that AoC has progressed beyond the old days, and is a more stable game. Some servers look busy according to the forumites, and Funcom has been able to keep it afloat (though financials have said otherwise). How do the Xfire stats look?

677 x 120.05 = 81,274 subs.
If we read the report for Funcom in their financials, they state "stabilization". This Xfire data corroborates that. They continue to hold this area in the Xfire ratings AND have stabilized in subs if Xfire is to be trusted.

Warhammer Online
My new favorite. Recently Bioware has made comments about the Mythic division and how WAR is actually "profitable". How many subs does a profitable game need? What does Xfire say...

621 x 120.05 = 74,551 subs. Could it be possible that with 4 servers and 50k plus players, any MMO could be profitable? Seeing Age of Conan has held to this area and is still afloat, I may not doubt it now. Especially if we watch Age of Conan with the expansion and new financials report. How will these numbers increase? I will watch these two games closely. They are thought to be case studies of failures for their time. Yet, I also feel they are also the most improved games over time, unlike some others on this list.

Dungeons & Dragons Online
This is a unique case, and I want it here to show how Xfire can still help us figure out what is considered a paying customer, compared to a freebie player. Recently Turbine has stated that they have "1 Meeelllion players" (note the pinky held next to my cheek as I say this..). In so many words; Turbine. The leader of misleading statements.
If we read further into the press release this came from, we also see these words..."paid subscriber base has more than doubled"....AHA. DDO at one point...before the "Free to Play" model, was noted as either having 25k or 50k players subbing. What does Xfire say they have now?

930 x 120.05 = 111,647 subs. So, 1 million players, yes, but I still say 100k plus subscribers paying a monthly fee. Now, this also does not take into account how many people pay for extras (and are not subbed). I still will say it. This hybrid model that DDO has is truly the way other games with low subs should go. We are guaranteed that Turbine is turning some very nice profits right now.

Everquest 2
I always wish to throw this one in there. This game is hard to pigeon hole, because we hardly see or hear about this game, and I always wonder what SOE needs to keep a game afloat. I always want to include Vanguard also (to show what a real failure looks like)...but, for now, EQ2 is good, as we know they have a dedicated playerbase, but not a huge sub lot (at least based on what we know and see).

293 x 120.05 = 35,175 subs. Now, is this really profitable? Has the game been out long enough to make back it's money? I guess it does help that they force players to repurchase EVERY expansion every time they launch a new one (almost 40 bucks a box every 6-8 months). Maybe all along EQ2 has made it's money off of the two-boxers and those who purchase new expansions at launch. For now, low player rates, but dedicated players keep EQ2 afloat.

The argument I keep hearing is Xfire cannot be used as a valid tool for these numbers. I will continue to disagree, as these numbers clearly show a lot of matching data with what we know about these games. We can never be 100% sure, but if I need to know how well a game is doing, I can look at Xfire and get a rough guesstimate.
The Calc I have continues to show some interesting data to this day, and as long as we have this tool, I will continue to try and use it to help me see how well these games are doing.

If you are ever worried about if you should play a game depending on if there are enough players to group with, etc, then try Xfire and see if it is doing well there.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Aion - Clipped Wings

Just a quick little post about the misadventure that was Aion.

As I blogged previously, my son got an itch, while we were playing Guild Wars, to get back into Aion. For some reason he remembered some fond memory of Aion, yet forgot about all the bad involved.
He has a habit of going back to games, even though he did not like them previously. Example was Fallout 3. He bought the game on launch and died over and over. Sold the game, and never looked back. Yet, all his friends were playing and several months later, decided to try again. Gamespot made a nice profit indeed, when that copy was returned for credit.

So, Aion. We made a pact. One, I would be able to make a character on his account. Two, the wife (who talked me into buying it for him, after I hemmed and hawed using the Fallout 3 story) would also have to play beyond a specific level (5) or else pay for it out of her allowance.

As of today, the game has been cancelled.

So, what did us in. Each of us ran into issues. What pulled us out (even before the PvP)...

Lets start with my son. This one is easy. Boredom. Slow combat, lots of running here and there, annoying questing. Oh, and ready for this one? Dying! (Over and Over and Over); That spawn rate is murder for solo players.

For my wife, a lot of the same. She noted something was off as she tried to play. The interface was not as intuitive as she would have liked. Also, the camera seemed choppy to her. Since she is a crafter at heart, gathering was slow and tedious for her as well. She hit that same window of Boredom.

For myself, relatively the same Boredom. But, as I fought mobs, I was annoyed by the cutesy critters I had to battle. The music started to get on my 3rd nerve. I ended up shutting off both music and the "spell words" sounds (Ka-here-nay? WTF?). Battle was slow (especially since we have fallen into being more actioney type players). The overall experience just kept me from logging in.

You have to imagine the difference of going between WAR, Guild Wars and Aion, as I was playing all three...and which game really was jarring in respect to how it "played". The odd man out was truly Aion.

Even though it has been discussed by many that the servers are empty, game time wise, Aion still charts quite high on Xfire. At one point NCSoft stated they had 1 millions subs in the US. SUBS, not players (ooo you Tricksies Turbine and the way you guys word your press releases..."1 Million players, doubled subs since going free to play"...). I did not see as many players in the starting areas as I have in Age of Conan or WAR...even GW. Could the endgame really be that good? All I know is 10 levels was torture.

For now, Aion goes back into the "been there, done that" pile, never to fly again.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Warhammer Online: SOLD!!!

Was it possible? Could the wife really enjoy killing others? Could the mobs that she wants to destroy actually be REAL people?

Yes, she could, they were and she did... kill a LOT.

Why would a game that offers PvP as the main gameplay sell the wife? A person who has played Lineage 2 and hated it, played Guild Wars PvP and had some fun, but got bored with it, and ever since has avoided ALL PvP aspects of MMO's.

Group PvP was the answer.

RvR as most of you know involves large groups of players in mass "lakes" (the term noted by most players), ebbing and flowing back and forth in battle.
Last night we entered combat for the first time within a Tier 1 RvR location (Festenplatz was our main objective). This was the make or break gameplay that would sell the game or not.
Confusion set in, as we entered a large battle (20+ players fighting like mad). The battle grew as we were accepted into a "Warband" and we had a full 24 players.
We took the main location, and the battle was furious, as we ran to different hotspots within the RvR region. The wife kept taking out various players and we were all yelling back and forth; "Look out for that Witch", "OMG, I am dead...gotta run back", "We are taking the main plaza".

As I looked at the clock, I saw it was already 15 minutes past my bed time (Old man's gotta get his sleep ya know). But, we did NOT want to quit out.

That was the secret.

Of course, other bits sold the wife though. Not just RvR.
The loot for completing RvR ranks was great to shop for. The items she was getting from drops are fun to figure out. Most of all, the combat itself has been notched up a bit. Skills fire off faster since my launch day trials, the quality of graphics have improved, and there is a lot to do gameplay wise, with things like RvR, Scenarios, PQ's and more.

So, I was asked to buy the game (actually found some cheap copies for 13.99 ea.) and we would stick it out for 30 days. What can it hurt?

Plus, with all the discussion out of Bioware about working on the game in respect to content and what not, I think this is a good time to inject our cash in anyways.

For all I know, this may not hold up. For now though, when we hear the wife asking us to login to play, the game must be doing something right.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Warhammer Online: News from the front

Talk about a change of pace for the family.

It happened officially yesterday. The wife stepped into the WAR universe, and something interesting took place.

She had...FUN??

Now, I need to reiterate something here for the masses; We are NOT PvP'ers...PERIOD. We like to enjoy a challenge of a game without someone griefing our fun or making it so we cannot progress. We enjoy the little things. Killing AI mobs, playing in our small group and being anti-social unless we MUST progress with others, etc.

Now, a little history on the WAR front. Initially I started goofing off with the free trial (which I am still on, BTW) and had some problems at first. I had resolved these (though the client is not perfect, as we are finding WAR has the EQ2 client issue. Too much on the CPU and not enough on the GPU. This is causing a massive overheat on my OC'd CPU's). After solving the problem though, I focused on leveling up my main, a Witch Hunter.
I really do enjoy this class and the aesthetic as I previously mentioned. But, I also was interested in trying a heal class as well, and moved to War Priest.
WHAT a change. It felt more powerful, and seemed to really fit my style. I took it through RvR and felt what it was like to enjoy some massive PvP.

As to the RvR, I knew I had to try it, as it is what the game is built around. I did not realize how much of a blast this would be though. Now, whether it is the server I chose, or what expectations I had built up...I feel group based PvP really works compared to the FFA style, like in Age of Conan.  It also has proven that in both Age of Conan AND Warhammer Online, the prevalent gameplay that is the most enjoyable is grouping.

So, how did the family get involved in this? I initially set out in WAR to just goof off in the mornings or the downtime for family gaming to run around and play. But, my son, coming from a stint in Aion (yes, I will post on that soon...), logged in and started playing different characters. Next thing I knew, he was NOT playing Aion anymore and was strictly playing WAR.
I honestly think his background in playing Halo, Battlefield, and Call of Duty (as a few choices) lend itself well for him to be involved in mass pvp styled combat. He is use to the "team" perspective of fighting in arenas to get points and gain renown. It really shows here as well.

The next thing I knew, we were teamed up and away we went. This weekend we joined our first warband. A large group all with one goal...protecting the realm of order. This did not leave the wifes attention, as she seemed interested in how much we wanted to get involved. We played RvR for over 3 hours.
The final blow of gaming came late Saturday when the wife and I logged in to play Guild Wars. The son joined in...but, soon was not interested. He grew bored, and apologized and said he did not want to play GW anymore.
We were disappointed. I told the wife I still wish to play, but she also lost interest at that point.

Game families...ARGH! There is no doubt we have built a synergy between the 3 of us. When one goes down, the other two are sure to follow.

So, after a lovely Indian meal Sunday, we convinced the wife to log in and give it a college try. Luckily, there were some bonuses. The Elven women in WAR actually look good (compared to another title with Elves - *Cough* LOTRO *Cough*). She also liked the idea of the Shadow Warrior, which would be a unique class for the wife (she has played Casters and Melee mostly...never a Ranger except shortly in Guild Wars).

So, after this, we were off.

She noted the mobs at the beginning seemed slightly "stupid", which of course, they are meant to be. She blew past this, and that is good (wait until I discuss Aion and her trial She moved on, and then made it to the first PQ "Ravenhost Vanguard". She got the first taste of "Open Groups" and mass murder in a setting where a ton of players were involved (when we entered, there were about 12 other bodies there including us 3). What amazed both myself AND my son is she finished 2nd overall in the end, in their ranking system for ability of the player in regards to contributions.


As she gained new skills, she enjoyed the class more and more. By the end of our play schedule (we had about an hour to goof off), she noted that she will play again. Always a good sign for my EXTRA picky wife.
I am shocked she took to the game, yet, I see a lot of potential in the overall gameplay lending itself well to our 3 person team. Time will tell. RvR is still on the horizon, and who knows how she may react to dying over and over.

I am actually enjoying Warhammer Online. They seemed to have ironed out a lot of bugs, increased combat speed, and visually enhanced the game. WAR, along with Age of Conan were both games with horrible launches that led to games that are looked down upon in the long run.  I find it pretty amazing that both of these games have made such turn around's...even without the revenue to back it up.

Now, is WAR good enough for us to BUY our copies? Time will tell.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Violence, Sex, Gaming and the 11 year old

I wanted to take a moment and discuss a personal story.

As many who read here may know, my son, who is 11, plays games with us (my wife and myself) on a regular basis. Mainly MMO's, but we have also played games like Baldurs Gate and Marvel Ultimate Alliance.
Today an article was posted here (, a site for Mom's. I read it through and found instead of it being a hate piece, it actually was informed and written by a person who was not so strict as to make Catholic School look like playland.

I wanted to share the story of my son, who sounds like this writers child. Since the whole family plays games together, his case proves to be an interesting outlook on gaming and kids.

My son started to be interested in games when he was about 8. We started on the Xbox, playing the games where we could all sit on the couch and control characters (like X-Men, Marvel Heroes based games and Baldurs Gate). He got an Xbox 360 for Christmas the next year, and started playing online.
Needless to say, the language started and the attacks began. He had a mic, and what was amusing was how many believed he was either a girl, or was gay.
We discussed these things with him when they happened, and realized that he took it well. He noted these were just words that people used to hurt someones feelings. The old "sticks and stones" adage certainly applied in his case. Swearing became commonplace of course online, but he refused to use these words. It was an interesting view of someone who could possibly take everything the wrong way, due to his age, but did not.

As he progressed, he showed interest in gaming with his parents. The wife and myself of course being avid MMO players for years (think we are going on 7 years now playing together), thought it would be great to have another on board, but would allow us to talk with him about the games more.

We let him start simple. He played World of Warcraft for example. But, he really took an interest in our last venture...Age of Conan.
Now, I can hear the screams of many an adult who would be like "WTF???". I kept thinking that he could pretty much see the same violence on TV or Movies, thus why would the game hurt.
Naked women? Heads flying off? How could we as responsible parents allow him to see these things?

I think it has to do with the fact that if WE are there, we are present for these things, that we as parents can explain these things to him.

As time progressed and we played together, the questions started. But, it is not what you think. He started discussing strategy. He broke out pencil and paper, and started taking notes. If a naked girl ran by, he covered his YES, he was timid and realized he did not really want to see that.

We felt he became responsible.

He started 5th grade this year, and the work he is doing in school has me even doing double takes on how hard it is. But, his persistence in doing the work has already claimed him two rewards.
He is part of an advanced mathematics group who, due to passing grades in that class, is going to Space Camp in Alabama in April. As well, his regular teacher has been so impressed by his "maturity", that she elected him to be one of seven children who are "Young Scholars". Many a time my son has supposedly broken up fights, discussed issues about other children who talk hate (he has heard kids discuss things like how "Jews are evil" and "Obama is black and it is the only reason he won"...ah, gotta love the Bible Belt Southern States), that she felt he showed a maturity well beyond the usual childish antics of most kids his age.
Anyways, the "Young Scholars" is a special program where the child is in a special summer camp for a week at Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, NC. While there he will get to choose to be a Movie Director, Crime Scene Investigator or Architect. They will act out these parts as if they were adults and doing the work to solve a crime or build a new business.

So, could this be because we treated him with respect and helped him learn...all because of video games? We like to think so.

So, what does my son think of hate, violence and sex? He really is outspoken about equal rights, discusses racial profiling, talks about religion and of course talks about War. He also says he wants to meet the right person someday to marry...but girls are icky right now...(lol).
Basically he may have grown up sooner than most parents would like. Yet, yesterday, he was in the hallway, playing with his toy Halo Warthog and action figures, defeating The Flood...just like a kid.

Did we do the right thing? Can we be the parents that either say "Don't do that or you will go blind" or should we be the parents who discuss things with their child, especially as they grow older and are looking to other avenues of entertainment, like drugs and sex. I know I was rotten when I was a teen. But, I also had the sheltered life, that we are NOT doing with our son.

Every indication so far says we may be doing it right. Not only is he our child, but we can treat him with respect and maturity in the hopes that WE will be the ones he will talk to when it comes time for peer pressure.

So, to our gaming family, let us hope that as time goes on, he does not want to part from discussing these things with us, and will be in that next big MMO with us...or at least meeting a nice girl he can bring home.

Hey, we can only hope SHE is a gamer chick too!!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Warhammer Online: WAR! What is it good for...(EDIT)

(EDIT: Ok, let me get this out of the way. I want to thank hardcorecasualgamer for his comment, which made me start thinking...
WAR has a new feature called "streaming content".  I had turned off streaming content and did a full file check and download of the game, as the streaming really made the game feel laggy.
I thought this should be good enough.

It is NOT the case.

Seems that if "Streaming" is off, this causes the errors in gameplay, which I  have noted further into my article. Turning Stream back on has fixed my issue. But, still, I will leave my post intact and hope it helps someone who has the same issues)


Well, some things?

Ok, ok. Let me talk about my adventure into Warhammer Online.  As part of my coverage of the games from the past year or more that were "WoW" killer wannabes, I step into the brink and enter the WAR.

The game has been out for over a year now. Having played in beta, I was not overly impressed with this MMO, and the game led to quite a few arguments on the web with certain "apologist" bloggers (*Cough* Keen, Heartless_, Bildo *Cough*) who believed WAR to be the next coming. Lets just say a Communist Bloc was formed in their names (especially thanks to Bildo ranting on my blog with personal attacks...hey, where is he anyways?), until one day my blog blew up thanks to being a "Casualty" of  WAR (had a for those in the know.)

Lets just say, I was not that impressed and finally put it away. WAR was bad (not as bad as LOTRO or Vanguard is to me), but not what I enjoyed. Anyways...

Lately, as most of you may know, WAR is officially free to play for the first 10 ranks (levels). This gives you a good chance to really feel out the questing, RvR and PQ system. I took the opportunity to finally load it up due to changes in graphics and balancing of the realms system to see how they have come along.

How has it progressed in that past year?

Thanks to the server list being compressed so much, there was no doubt that quite a few people were playing within the server I was on. That made for certain parts of the game being quite fun. The PQ's or Public Quests System is really quite a blast (at least at first and for the first 10 levels...I have heard rumors of them getting worse...). Basically zones on the map, when entered, become open to a quest to be finished within certain constraints. Getting items, killing big bosses, etc. None of these are soloable from what I have seen (unless you are uber level I guess), but proved to be quite busy, so they were fun to enter and do. Questing was bland but not horrible, especially thanks to so much going on around you to lift any grind tedium.

The visual quality has also improved. They have added post processing and bloom to the visual mix, which helps improve landscapes, trees, buildings, etc. Characters also seem acceptable. But, man, talk about some ugly females in this game. Why are they all so ugly? WAR is hard on a woman I guess.

So, overall, seems like a fun enough game. Especially if I can get the full game for cheap (13 bucks is all...).

But, here is a major note. A rather buggy client has caused havoc while playing the game. I will not play anymore....period. I have tried to find why it does this, but no matter what I do; every time I log out, the game locks certain features.

For example.

After logging out, then logging back in later, my characters would be doing a paperdoll. All stuck in this funny looking pose and not moving. To fix it, you would need to do a file check and repair, which would then proceed to download a 4 GIG file to fix the game. I spent more time fixing the game than playing it seemed.

A second issue is after one of these "logouts" and trying to play without the repair, sound would become mucked up, and animations would be wonky.

Check out this video for an idea of the problem. Please note, there is not an issue with the video recording or from it being uploaded. The latency of sound (or missing sounds, like the gun not firing) AND animation (like mobs dying, and instantly lying on the ground) issue is actually what I would see and hear when playing.

To me, a game that has been out this long should not have issues like this. Some things are forgivable, like people complain about shields sticking through heads or bodies, and that does not bother me...this mess does. I would have enjoyed trying to get further in the game, as I really love the Witch Hunter character as an aesthetic thing (Solomon Kane fan But, I cannot repair my game every time I want to enjoy myself, and immersion dies thanks to such an issue as this.

Well, hey, I gave it my best shot, and maybe you may not have the same issue (for example, I have cutting edge gear in my PC, and who knows...maybe that is causing the problem?)

For now..WAR! What is it good for? Good for shelving next to my LOTRO, Vanguard and EQ2 boxes.

Stay tuned for more on the games that wanted it all, but just could not get there series as it continues.

(SECOND EDIT:  I am working on having this clarified, but it seems that if you are on a trial account, you are not ALLOWED to play full client. You MUST stream. In so many words, the multiple times I downloaded the huge 4 gig patches to get the game to full has never worked, and maybe explains the issue above when Stream is turned off. More as I get the data on this.)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Give "MMO's" a chance

Wow, is that a really bad way to segue into John Lennon's masterpiece...or what?

Well, as you can see, I have been the "strong" silent type for the last week as I have taken time to get to grips with several MMO's that had been on a back burner for me. How did this play time come about? As always, it boils down to my son's interests and helping him bloom in his fascination with MMO's.

About a little over a week ago he asked if I would buy Aion for him. Now, I try my best to help my son make good decisions about purchasing (my wife? not so I look upon her Jimmy Choo's she just HAD to have, yet sit gathering dust).
I first remind him of a little fiasco a while back when Fallout 3 first came out. He played the game after buying it new (60 buckos) and about a couple of weeks after the learning curve, he started to die...a lot.
He wanted to sell it back to Gamestop. Hey, no issue. Find a better game buddy!
Several months passed. His friends kept talking about the game on Xbox live, and were still playing it themselves. He kept getting excited about it, and asked if he could buy it...

I did a double take.

I told him about what happened. He believed he had become a better gamer, and could do it.
He understood my thoughts, so, blew another 60 bucks again on Fallout. (Please note, all games my son buys, he has earned...through trash pickup, cleaning his room, good grades and Grandma's).

It was returned just less than a week after.

Same thing for Aion. While playing beta, he started to hit that "grind" wall after a while. He decided he did not want the game after all when it launched. Yet, here he is...asking to buy it now.

I guess I could rack it up to A.D.D? "Well, you will need to pay for it son." And he did. I also agreed on one condition. I would play as well. The final piece? The wife would also need to play it and see how she felt about the game. She would need to play for 5 levels, or SHE would pay for it.
(Please note: We are a VERY democratic household on all things gaming, food, name it. We also follow the "try it or pay out" rule...You must try all foods once, all games and all TV shows as well).
Here is something else to think about. Since we are a gamer family, if one gamer strays, it makes it difficult for the other two to play. So, we make these arrangements over the games to allow everyone something to do while the other plays another title.
The wife and I knew we would get less Guild Wars time while he played Aion, so we each took off to play other things while he played Aion.

So, my schedule has been mixed between - Guild Wars, Age of Conan (free trial), Warhammer Online and Aion.

So, how has this been going? Quite well actually. It gives me a chance to also blog a bit about these games. So, stay tuned, as several posts are being lined up to discuss my trials and tribulations of the supposed "Games losing subs" group.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Secret World - The experiment!

I made a few points on Twitter today about my thoughts of The Secret World.

First, I do honestly believe it could be the most unique and engaging MMO on the market (as long as it is NOT Funcom'd in any way, as we know they are notorious for doing). Second, as long as some conventions are put within a more modern world feel, like the game setting itself, I will truly feel like I am living in my present world...inhabited by creatures of legend and myth.

Some of my thoughts are:

Please make sure I have a first AND last name.
Please make sure I can get "regular" food and in normal ways. For example; Chips or Sodas...candy bars, out of vending machines.
Finally, PLEASE make sure money is in multiple denominations (Euro, Yen and US Dollar or something to that effect). Not some made up currency, or a singular style (well, I will slide if all money is in Yen ala Shadowrun style)

Now, why do I call this post "The Experiment"? Simple.

The Secret World will be the first MMO I will treat differently than most MMO titles of today. Here are my rules for The Secret World "Experiment" when it launches.

  • I will not buy the game until at least a week has passed to get over hiccups. If I have to, I will wait a month.
  • Try to avoid, at all costs, reading any in depth articles currently out and as well, no "reviews" of the game. This could make my first point "difficult" to say the least. I will also need to go on Twitter moratorium I think, as I believe some tweeters (Longasc!!!!) will really ruin it for me.
  • When I play, I will totally treat the game like a normal purchase. Read the rule book, log in and really pay attention to story, detail, etc.
Yes, I REALLY have my work cut out for me. But, this is the way it use to be. Guild Wars was a launch game for me, and I learned it from scratch, and it totally blew me away. Yet, LOTRO was a beta tester game, and it has ruined all aspects of that title for me. 
WoW was really awesome when I started as I only knew the game by reviews only...but, then I started reading "help" sites, was ruined for me.

The best part though? I will blog it all for YOU, as I know YOU love it when you know what is happening. But, I may instead do it, based on the principles of my ARG site, The Atbash Cipher of Secrets.
You can already check out that site, as I have my preliminary work there and layout for how I wish the game to be played from my perspective. Thats right folks, it is slightly RPG style.

Anyways, I could not resist discussing this, as I know news is coming from GDC that a NEW trailer with gameplay is to be shown by Funcom. I plan to watch that video, and then my moratorium will begin. No reading peoples thoughts on the video, no "previews"...NADA.

All of it will disappear not unlike the hidden secrets of the Templars.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Guild Wars - Respond, React, and Act

There is something exhilarating that continues to evolve as our family plays Guild Wars.
What really shines is the system built into Guild Wars for combat. I call the system a Respond, React and Act type of combat.

Thanks to the limit that GW puts on your skill bar, you must, accordingly,  choose the proper skills for what you wish to accomplish. Eight skills is not a lot to work with, yet, thanks to how fast a lot of them work, and how you must react to what is happening, the game becomes more "Action" oriented than most slowbie combat MMO's (examples of massive slow is Vanguard, EQ2, LOTRO). There seems to be a metagame here on how you must line up skills, and of course gaining and capturing skills (another mini game in about the Signet of Capture here if you are not aware of this trick). But, that is another story...

So, lets see how a typical combat round can run for a group that is well kitted.

Respond - First "response" means that you use any skills that help you become efficient. Examples may be skills that make energy use cost less for skills, makes skills refresh quicker, enhance health, etc. There are a multitude of various tricks to play around with. I usually try and take one per skill bar.

REACT - "React" means to take care of detriments to you the player. Health drains, hexes, etc are all types of detriments a player may get (bleeding or poison is an example of a condition, and are a detriment to the players capabilities). You will then use skills that will remove these, or hope that if you do NOT have that capability, then another player is a Monk, Necromancer or other class who can remove these.

ACT - Acting upon enemies with attack skills, your own detriments to the mobs, etc. Or, if you are playing a healer, to use healing type skills.

Now, this is the system I have been using since I have been playing. As you grow with your character and class, you may find alternative methods to each of these.

Recently, which you can see in the image above, I decided to go Ritualist / Monk. The Ritualist class from Factions is unique in that it has a pet system that summons non-movable (unless you have a skill to do this) spirits that attack, heal, cause detriments, etc.

My system of Respond, React and Act followed this course..

Respond - Summon 2 spirits, one who steals health and the other who would attack and disrupt mobs.
React - Watch players in the group who would receive detriments and remove these. I carried both condition removal skills and hex removal skills (hexes are unique in usually causing a player to either drain health as they attack, or slow them down, etc.)
Act - Since I was a healer type, I would avoid attacking here. So, as a Monk, I would instead act by healing players who needed to have their health renewed. If not capable, or character dies, then Resurrect if possible.

Now that I have gained Heroes, a form of NPC that follows a player, like henchmen, I have moved away from the heal class. One particular Hero makes an excellent healer, so I am now attack based, with more spirits and damage attacks.
Each type of playstyle is difficult in it's own way. For example, being a Mesmer puts a player more into a class of causing detriments to mobs (or other players in PvP) and can be difficult to play (as my wife found out, who has decided to go back to her Elementalist caster now, and put the Mesmer on the backburner). On the other hand, he Elementalist is the true notion of DPS we see so often spoken of in the MMO realm.

Anyways, I just wanted to throw this out there. I truly admire the combat system in GW, and wish more games would look to this style of layout. The multibar systems of most MMO's gets tiresome and unwieldy in nature. The fast, sleek systems of Guild Wars make for a fun and exciting outing everytime I play.

Mastering it is truly the players battle. Using the R, R, A system I describe is just one method to get the most of of your playtime.