Author Archive: Isey

Straws, Backs, and Camels

Ok. I’m going to see how long I can NOT buy an EA product. I’m disconnecting my cash from the company.

I’ve never had a major issue with the company, either. Their support (for me) has been just awesome. I’ve been buying their titles for as long as I have been gaming.

Sometimes, you just have to take a stand. I know that sounds like I’m making some huge gesture over a major event, but it’s not. It’s actually a bit silly.

I was first disappointed with EA when they struck PC development with their sports titles. I was a perennial purchaser. Madden and Hockey every year. Baseball when they had the rights. We are going back a decade or
more here on those titles alone.

The layoff notices are well documented at brokentoys.org each time they happen. I’m not even ‘taking a stand’ because of this, although their announcements are always framed as a good thing – and that annoys me. It’s the attitude moreso then the job losses. I don’t say that unsympathetically either – but losses happen in every industry, every day. Normally they just aren’t celebrated as a championed initiative to stock holders.

The proverbial straw here is the promotional email received from them this morning for a game I don’t even play.

I did say it was silly.

For a mere $10 you can buy their first multiplayer map pack for Medal of Honor. It also includes all the multiplayer unlocks (which are normally earned in game).

MoH has been out for all of two weeks. So, new smart business design is release your blockbuster with limited maps for full price, then hit your players with a charge 2 weeks later.

You know the maps were done, and could have been released for free with the game.

Heck, if they waited a year, I’d understand a dlc pack.

This blatant f*** you just put me over the edge. A lot of respect is gone for EA, and in the blogosphere I was one of the few that still had it.

(1. I’m posting this on my iPhone stuck in a waiting room, so I haven’t linked anything. Will update that over the weekend

2. I beta tested MoH and it was average at best

3. I say ‘trying’ not to buy as they have a bunch of upcoming titles I am really interested in. I will need help resisting the temptation. I need a support group!

4. Anyone else with me?)

Minecraft Zen (for you, Tesh)

Tesh often waxes poetic about forms of Zen grinding, and I found it recently in Minecraft. I realized in game I am not a fancy builder – but hey, can I strip mine with the best of them! When a much needed work break opportunity appears, I make 12 stone pickaxes (saving the iron ore for the future) and clear out my already very deep mine.

This evening while doing so I discovered a horriffic discovery.

Not-so-inside-yet-not-obvious-chuckles sure makes for good blogging.

And oh, that picture doesn’t capture the magnitude of how much I have strip mined (it’s well over half way down, and in one of the thinner areas), but I had to catch super chicken in the act. It’s the first animal I have seen this deep… coincidence?

Nodding Wistfully : Diku

A thankful nod to this article over at Qblog from Mr. Dr. Bartle. While I started my MMO adventures in EQ beta, I still didn’t understand where the holy trinity actually came from.  I’ve always disliked it, writing my own musings on how silly it all is, and the challenges of getting people to adopt something that may be different. Even if it is better.

I found the link through Zubon’s ‘Most Typical Member’ post over at killtenrats (which I’m not going to link directly, as this post doesn’t really add to his thoughts on the matter).

Read, enjoy, dream of change.

What I Don’t Get About the Gaming Industry

“As you know, seasonal roll-offs that follow game launches are common and vital to maintaining a healthy business” – EA Spokesperson Jeff Brown

Why is it that this statement seems only true for the gaming industry? I’m probably missing a few other industries that do this so nonchalantly in tone. It seems impossible to maintain a stable, motivated workforce in the gaming industry.

“We had a solid first quarter, exceeding expectations both top and bottom line,” said John Riccitiello, CEO (from Q1 2011 earnings report at investor.ea.com, dated August 3)

“EA is well-positioned for the year ahead and reaffirms its FY11 non-GAAP guidance,” said Eric Brown, Chief Financial Officer. “Digital revenue is expected to grow approximately 30% year over year, to $750 million in the fiscal year.”

Good thing EA doesn’t need staff to hit that growth. I suppose we have a better understanding of who straddles that ‘bottom line’. As a guy in business, I value my staff, their families, and their contribution as paramount to my personal and professional success. Talk to the Guru business leaders and you get the same story – it is all about motivating, empowering, and giving ownership to your team.

Not going to wax poetically here I do not know the way the gaming industry ticks – only that it sounds like a time bomb.

Oh, for giggles, the ending quote of Mr. Brown in the same article over at Gamasutra.com

“Because so many of our games ship in the holiday quarter, the team size adjustments tend to follow in the same timeframe. However, EA is growing and several of our studios are looking to hire talented people.”

Maybe you should move those talented, experienced people you just fired over to the new studios? Just a thought.

Steam Sale Stings! (also – my Baseball Game is now a RPG)

I picked up MLB 2k10 from 2k sports over the weekend. I enjoyed 2k9, and the $20 price tag is a nice entry level. Today I check out steam, and that same title is now on sale for $1.99. 90% off! While that is indeed impressive, now my valued purchase makes me feel like I was bent over the virtual counter. I emailed them to see if I can get credit (which I’ll promptly turn around and buy a different title with anyway).

I’ve always been a proponent of the Steam sales strategy and this is the first time it has bitten me in the bottom. I’ll update you if they do the right thing. If not, of course, then I suppose I’ll never buy anything off Steam again that ISN’T on sale. Should be a no brainer that due to the proximity of the sale I should get credit. We’ll see.

MLB 2k10 has ‘My Player’ mode, and it is a nice marriage of sports and rpg. You make a player, customize looks, etc and then go into the MLB draft. You can choose the team you want to play for or randomize it. I was drafted by the Giants.

What happens next is hella fun. You only play your role. I picked a starting pitcher, so I just pitch. That’s it. The games go by quickly (well, except for that nasty game where I earned a 7.45 ERA) and the pitcher/hitter interface is really well done.

The interesting part is how you improve your player. There are mini goals in real time (ie: do not allow baserunner to advance into scoring position, do not walk batter, strike out the side, etc) and successfully achieving them gives you points, which you can then spend to upgrade your abilities. You also get points for baseball worthy things (strikeouts, flyouts, groundouts, inning with no runs, innings with no hits, etc). Pitching, fielding, and batting all have separate point pools you earn for achieving things in game. Bonus idea is that you get 2x the points if it’s a key matchup – either a division/geographical rival (this happened when I got the start against the Oakland A’s) or if it’s a key positional matchup (this happened when I pitched against a star pitcher as a rookie). It’s pretty well thought out.

I’m playing above Pro level and getting a feel for how the game plays – spent the whole first season in the minors, midway year two called up to the bigs. Added a pitch type (Screwball) and working on my stats along the way. Winning and losing, but having fun. Supposedly you can also get traded to other teams if the GM deems it necessary.

Nice to see the RPG elements introduced into the PC sports game genre, although I suppose there aren’t a ton of players who swap their playtime between Fallout : NV and Sports.

(PS – I still hate you EA sports for stopping game development for the PC! I miss you football!!)

Welcome To Our Preferred Customer Program

My son decided he wanted to be a Skeleton this year for Hallowe’en – a far cry from his normal big budget movie choices (Batman, Spiderman, Bumblebee) and wow, is it ever hard to find a basic skeleton costume these days.

I ordered on online and had it priority shipped. It arrived in a day, and is a great costume. He and his exposed 3d glowing bones are also excited. I can’t wait to comb through his piles of loot and take out what I like next week. I have a sweet tooth.

The day after the costume arrived, I received an email from the company I had purchased the costume with, welcoming me to their ‘Preferred Customer Program’. While I am never one to shy away from future savings (how many Hallowe’en costumes am I supposed to buy in a year anyway?) my first thought was ‘seriously?’

I have been an off and on Customer of World of Warcraft for 6 years, and I still haven’t become a preferred customer there. What simple retail lessons can we learn after the break?

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On Relationships

Not interpersonal human relationships, as that is better served by the professionals.

Not MMO player relationships (guilds, etc) as that is still managed between human beings.

In Fallout: New Vegas, I am asked to manage relationships in game via two formats – Karma, and Reputation with various groups.

Karma is interesting – if you do something inherently bad, even out of sight, you ‘lose’ it. Down the road your Karma rating is a benchmark on whether certain groups or characters will work with you. It is an unforseen force, yet exists. Many argue that to be true in our real lives. Karma, is apparently, a bitch.

Example in game: I am tired. I see a bed. I mouse over the bed to have the option to sleep in it. The choice is in red – if I choose to sleep in it I will lose Karma. It is red only because it ‘belongs’ to a character in game. I can’t ask that character for permission to sleep in his bed. I only have the choice to sleep in it, lose Karma, or not sleep in it and find another place to sleep. For some reason you can’t sleep on couches. (One of my favorite pasttimes).

Oddly enough, if I kill the owner of the bed I don’t lose Karma. Now that he/she is dead, the game flags the bed as ‘unowned’ and I can choose to sleep in that bed and not lose Karma. Sad post-apolyptic survival social commentary that you get penalized for sleeping in a bed without asking, unless you kill the owner of the bed first. I should probably just end this article here, but there is more.

The second managed reputation is with faction. If that same owner of the bed is a member of a group, say the NCR, then if I kill him I lose reputation with the NCR (even without a witness). In my play through in F:NV the NCR and I don’t get along. Apparently I was more concerned with my Karma score than my Rep scrore, and heck, you need to sleep a lot in the game.

I get a mission to go speak to an NCR Leader at an Embassy. He teases me with the premise that if I go speak to him he has the power to offer me amnesty for my past crimes against NCR bed owners. I decide to go have a chat with him. Unfortunately for me he is located deep in a NCR Military Police Base. Unfortunately for the NCR MP’s the Leader didn’t inform them that he asked to speak with me.

I kill 40 NCR MP’s on my way to the NCR Leader ( I have to kill them, they won’t let me walk by) to get my amnesty. In fact, I even killed 2 in his room while he sat at his desk and watched. I believe a head exploded on his paperwork. There is a severed limb of one of his NCR guards in his lap.  He watched, waited for me to finish, then offered me my desired amnesty if I would take the time to go convert a neutral faction to the NCR cause.

I go do so, and the NCR and I are pals once again.

Conventions

Sorry - not that kind of convention!

One of the best blog articles I have read recently was at Elder Gamer regarding genre conventions in our beloved MMO’s. It hits on a lot of interesting and valid points, and is a great read. I find it interesting that a lot of the ‘outside of the box’ MMO design discussions (from the armchair folk) tend to look for solutions to twist those around, and try new things. It’s true that we are trained as gamers to expect certain things, and when they deliver on those expectations the moans from the crowd are ‘oh, just like that game’. But we play on. When we throw out interesting and possible ideas that go against those expectations – but make sense to us – it’s likely a non-fundable industry idea. We went from WoW, to games that want to be like WoW (but different!), to games that want to be like games that aren’t quite as successful as WoW because copying WoW has failed. In most industries change is enacted by a need in the market. You get the outliers who work to make that change on their own to position their product or service in a better market position, but those are few and far between. If oil prices and the education about the environment weren’t so front and center in our everyday lives, then we would all still be driving gas guzzling cars – and why not? If it’s the most inexpensive way to create the product, and socially acceptable, that is what we are going to get. Now car companies are struggling to catch up on making fuel efficiency and alternate fueling methods the forefront of their companies – because people actually want them now (and governments are forcing them to). It’s all demand – on different fronts.

The fun part with Elder Gamer’s example, that in AC2 they didn’t want an ammo slot for arrows and how it didn’t work for them then – is that WoW is moving that way now. Goes to show how long, and what it actually takes to, make such a seemingly minor design decision. Imagine the timeline on the bigger ideas.

Where am I going with this? Cutting my lawn! (after the break)

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Vindictus-ed

I have spent a couple days in the Vindictus open beta. I don’t really do ‘reviews’ but wanted to share some bullet points about the experience. My initial impression is MMO-lite meets Team Fortress 2, but that is meant as a compliment.

1) Currently there are only 2 character classes, a Fiona (sword and board) and a Lann (dual weapons). All Fiona’s are women, all Lann’s are men. While there are appearance customization options, you can’t choose your sex. While traditional MMOists will most likely question mark that design decision, it works. More on that later.

2) There is a small town with shops and quest givers. When you want to go kill stuff you go to the docks, and either board a player boat (who selects what mission, what difficulty, what ‘achievements’ they are working towards in the instance, etc.) The extra achievements are things such as ‘defeat with 2 players or less’, or ‘defeat in under 10 minutes”. There are many different options in this regard, and most make sense to the story line and scope of the dungeon. For example, on one mission where I have to kill 100 gnolls that continously spawn (aside from 2 15 second breaks) you can get bonus points for completing it without using a health potion. When you choose the option, it takes your health potions away, so if you suddenly really need one you don’t even have a choice. Conversely you can launch your own boat, choose level ranges that can play with you, how many party members you want (up to 4) and lock the boat with a password if you are waiting for specific friends.

More bullet points after the break.

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Minecrafting

I forgot how much I love the sandbox. It even took me a while to adjust my playstyle expectations – big, random generated world that I can do whatever I want with.

Sadly, I have lost the ability to post pics to my own blog (help, Joe!) – so I can’t share the sheer awesomeness of the completely crappy graphics. Although I prefer to call it ‘stylized realism’. The graphics are part of the charm, anyway.

I learned about Minecraft through Random Mileages blog who heard about it through Rock Paper Shotgun. I felt compelled to check it out. The game is in Alpha (and runs incredibly stable at this stage) and the game is, as advertised. Big sandbox. Do, or don’t do, whatever you want. There are some incredible gameplay moments to be had, and a little discussion about the incredible success of this little title, after the break.

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GAMMOP – Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Mobs Gear

MMO’s have generally accepted principles much like accounting. Rules and systems that have been adopted over the years. I recently signed up to try the Age of Conan Trial (haven’t played it since I dismissed the game as ‘not for me’ in beta). I’ll most likely discuss how things have changed there in another piece, but playing through the first 3 levels reminded me how loot systems in our MMO’s really kill immersion.

In AOC I awake on a beach wearing only a loincloth and slave tattoos. A broken oar is my only weapon. My character, a Stygian Ranger, must find Tortage. I look around the beach and see a slaver of particular interest – full leather armor, a bow by his side and a quiver full of arrows on his back. Wielding my broken oar with the fury of a thousand raining arrows I down the slaver, and begin to rummage through his gear.

Now, being a ranger myself, you would think that I would be overjoyed at the opportunity to pick up my weapon and ammo of choice to make my way to Tortage. No, though. The golden tooth of the slaver is the only thing I find of value. Perhaps I neglected my own dental hygiene and am obsessed with teeth – either way, I discard the weapons, armor, and arrows, rummuge through the guy’s mouth and remove 1 gold tooth and tuck it somewhere in my loincloth. (I won’t tell you where  – use your imagination.)

MMO’s have come a long way with loot, and some try to make that experience even better. Building my private set of dentures in AoC just left me with one thought – ‘why didn’t they even try something here?’ As a ranged class, providing loot that fits my class, from an NPC that obviously also slings arrows is a missed opportunity. In fact, I didn’t even find a bow or arrows until level 3.

Why didn’t they even try?

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Secure Online Starcraft 2

Starcraft 2 cost a reported 100 million to make. Not far into the release, Blizzard bans 5000 players for cheating.

I know, I know. The 1337 hackers are always ahead of programmers. Curious though, out of a 100 million development budget, I wonder how much was budgeted to make a game difficult to hack/cheat? Especially a game such as SC2 that is a huge online game arena – that Blizzard knows people will be quick to jump on the ‘get on an unfair advantage’ wagon.

Think it was more, or less, than the marketing budget?

(tongue in cheek. Curious though, if anyone played SC1 how they beat the cheats. I haven’t played in 6 years =)

Can We Teach A New Dog Old Tricks?

Blizzard seems intent on taking a new direction in Cataclysm – making the game more challenging. I’m very curious if the follow through, and if they do – even more curious if they stick with it.

The basis of the change, without going into too much detail, is making CC required in instances again as well as making healing more challenging. What is surprising to me is that WoW today has been built on accessibility and easing the game every step of the way. I wrote recently how my Shaman had managed to beat pretty much the most challenging of bosses in PUG’s. The game has hit its high subscriber base from designing every class to be competitive in any role it can assume.

I’ll give a brief history of my experiences in WoW and how I have seen things change, and then chat about whether this move is possible, advisable, and/or sustainable. After the break.

My first raider in WoW was a druid, back in Vanilla. Back then druids were few and far between (no Tree or Boomkin form) and I secured my spot on a raid team for one button, and one button only – Innervate.  Back then raiding was such a challenge, mana was at a premium, and my main job was to replenish the mana of the core healers – usually a priest. My Vanilla experience was a full time mana battery with healing capabilities. Most characters had one clearly defined role and spec, and if you wanted to raid as that class, you stuck by it.

TBC fleshed out the characters a bit more, but dungeon runs were still a challenge. Going in without your guild (because you knew the strengths and weaknesses of the players) rarely happened. Heroic Shattered Halls was a complete cluster f*ck if you didn’t have the right CC, and the right players responsible for that CC. While characters became much more well rounded, content access was still at a premium. Our casual guild (who raided hard) was ranked as a top 10 guild on the server at one point, and we hadn’t even killed all of the bosses.

Wrath finalized the current path. Nearly every spec of every class was end game playable, and the content was the most accessible it has ever been. Still a shortage of tanks and healers, but enough people could fill those roles well enough that a 20 minute wait was pretty much the longest wait for a DPS only class to get into some content. The dungeon finder is out, and in full swing, and a group of 5 random strangers across multiple servers can easily dominate the hardest of 5 man heroic dungeons. PUG groups form day and night for 10/25 man ICC (the end game of Wrath), many with heroic mode toggles. More people experience the most content available in WoW to date.

While that history is a severe simplification, all roads travelled by Blizzard have led to an easy to play, moderate to master experience. I am curious why they want to make the game more challenging since their success seems to have hinged on that mantra. Regardless, this is the vision they are working towards for Cataclysm. Spending 5 years training a playerbase to play a certain way towards the easy path, and then changing to make them have to relearn their expectations is, by all accounts, a very interesting goal.

Now, perhaps I only found Wrath to be extremely easy because ‘I learned the hard way’. Players who entered the game end of TBC, or WRATH, only know the ‘new’ way. Through hundreds of dungeons and raids, I have literally seen CC used a handful of times. It’s just not necessary. I have met rogues that don’t even know what Sap is. Mages don’t Poly (even in an emergency – it’s not a natural reaction to immobolize the mob anymore to try and recover). It has been completely removed from the game, and by recent accounts, is something people are going to have to pick up real quick on launch day. Will it succeed?

I applaud Blizzard for trying something new and attempting to inject a bit of challenge into their playable game. I just don’t understand the motivation. By keeping the absolute end game (Lich King) still very difficult to kill they have seemed to keep the hardcore raiders pleased. By allowing the rest of the player base to defeat most of the other bosses, the more casual component seems to be pleased. So, at this stage in the game, why alienate your core subscriber base? You tought these players to play one way and made it easy for them. Now you are going to make them struggle through a 5 man dungeon. Is this good design?

I’m looking forward to watching how it all plays out.

time = money / money = pizza [therefore] time = pizza

Callan hits an interesting point in the comment section over at Tesh’s musings about the value of his time.

I am in Tesh’s camp here, where my discretionary budget is at an all time high, and my time budget is at an all time low. Gamers often judge the value of a game based on how many hours it gives you, and that argument often supports ‘the reason why a subscription model works for me’. Take WoW, and remove the part of the game that annoys you the most that feels or is necessary (grinding for cash? getting locked out of an instance for a week? farming for mats? runnin the daily heroic for frosties?) figure out how much time you spend doing doing that activity every week you dislike, and realize what your sub fee is buying you.

It happens in all games. I just finished Mass Effect 2. I had great fun. I didn’t think it was too short, but there was a nagging part of it that drove me nuts. Go crazy with me after the break.

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Star Wars The Old Republic : Hopes and Dreams

I have writers block. I have 7 drafts written on various topics but am having a hard time piecing them together. Some of them are related, and I think, can I combine them? Do they make sense? I have lost my groove, and working to find it.

My time off blogging was spent playing 3 games. WoW, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect. Having just finished Mass Effect 2 this week it gives me cautious optimism for Bioware’s SWTOR, even though I made fun of them on at least one occasion. In typical naive internet fashion, I am basing my personal hopes and dreams not from the devs, or things I have read about the upcoming title, but because of the type of game I want (dammit!).

Review of what lead me to my hopes and dreams, and how I would like to see SWTOR end up, after the break.

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Here’s Your Answer, Tesh!

I suppose the Global Agenda ‘strike while the iron is hot’ promo is, uh, striking while the iron is hot.

Last chance for APB refugees and other Shooter/MMO fans to receive discount

Dear Shooter/MMO Fans:Image

Recently, I wrote an open letter to APB Refugees and other fans of the Shooter/MMO genre. In that letter, we offered players 30% Off Global Agenda when purchasing from our webstore using the promotion code “LongLiveShooterMMOs” (that’s $20.99, £13.12 and €15.75).

Since that letter, we’ve had thousands of new players join the game! With each additional Shooter/MMO fan the Global Agenda community grows stronger and the online multiplayer competition becomes more intense.

Based on this, we’ve extended the promotion through Monday, October 4.

So if you are interested in Global Agenda’s high-flying shooter combat inside a futuristic game world, there’s no better time to strap on that jetpack! And, remember, the game has no monthly fees.

Still unsure? You can try before you buy by playing the free trial, available here.

We welcome all the new players that have recently joined us, and hope to see the rest of you in game soon!

Todd Harris
Executive Producer, Global Agenda

Hi-Rez Studios

________________________________________________________

My own emphasis on the ‘thousands of new players’.

The Body is Still Warm…

Received this in my inbox today.

An Open Letter to Shooter/MMO Fans from Hi-Rez Studios
Dear Shooter/MMO Fans:

The last few years have been rough for many fans of the Shooter/MMO genre.

Several innovative game titles with great communities have folded as they sought to bring together those of us who enjoy the fast-action, intense pace of a shooter, but also the character progression and persistence offered by MMOs.

Today, we mourn our latest fallen colleague, APB. In making APB, Realtime Worlds had a bold vision to make an MMO devoid of traditional tab-targeting, cast bars, and die-roll combat. We honor their effort and innovation, and greatly mourn the game’s closing.

Sadly, the APB server shutdown leaves their entire community with nothing to shoot or blow up tonight!

So between today and Friday, September 24, 2010, we are offering refugees from APB and other Shooter/MMOs an opportunity to join Global Agenda’s growing community more easily and affordably than ever.

We figure you deserve it. And you’ll fit right in since you already know how to aim.

All players that purchase Global Agenda on the game’s official webstore prior to September 24, 2010, using the promotion code “LongLiveShooterMMOs” will receive a 30% discount off the game. That’s $20.99, £13.12 and €15.75!

This one-time purchase gives you full access to the game’s content, with no monthly fees.

And, remember, you can try the game before you buy by playing the free trial, available here..

We at Hi-Rez Studios believe strongly in the Shooter/MMO genre. We celebrate and thank all developers advancing innovative Shooter/MMO concepts, as well as the fans that dedicate their time to playing and supporting these games.

Todd Harris
Executive Producer, Global Agenda

So.. too soon?

iPhone Game Fun: Flight Control

This little doozy is addicting.

The premise – land like colored planes on like colored landing strips while managing the flight space so none of them hit each other.

The twists – easily identifiable planes (of the same color as well) fly at different speeds.

The hook – you can’t win. It goes by total planes landed. There is no end.

Bonus points – Push Tin – with co-operative multiplayer. (could have been even more fun if it was competitive multi-player, since crashing a plane doesn’t actually kill anyone)

I learned about Flight Control when my iPhone toting friends and I began a small contest to see who could find the most addictive iPhone game. It was done in typical man-juvenile fashion (we weren’t trying to find fun games for each other, but games you just couldn’t put down. You would know if you sent a winner to a friend, if an “I hate you” was text-ed back, a variable expletive, or an “I want my life back”). Flight Control delivers in this regard.

The game has an easy entry level and a successful round is a testament to multi-tasking skills and fair concentration. Like many great addictive games, you can land plans for (theoretically) forever – making the end game beating your own 3 digit score at the top of the screen. Juggling multiple planes of multiple types and speeds  on their appointed fligh paths doesn’t get boring quickly. If you are a personality that likes/needs to ‘do one better’ then this game promises hours of fun.

There is a patched in achievement system, and constant positive reinforcement (depending on where the landing strip is the game gives you lots of verbal praise for not crashing each plane) – much like your mom telling you how awesome you are on a constant basis. Thanks Mom!

If you have a buck to spare go give Flight Control a whirl. I guarantee you will hate me afterwards.

(As a side note, my high score is 732 planes – have “fun”!)

I has Returned

Miss me?

I’m sorry I left! I had a whirlwind year where both the effort and joy of blogging had to take a backseat. It has been a very interesting year.

I became a CEO (complete with the 90+ hour work weeks)

I almost lost, then managed to salvage, my marriage

I had a 6 month Cancer scare (clean bill of health – finally)

I still lurked and read both my favorites, and I’m sorry for not supporting you with comments. Selfishly, especially with the health angle, I become very self contained.  I have been playing games – it was a ‘comfort’ angle where I played both old and new, when I could, and I managed to pull through all of my challenges successfully and have been living a much more balanced life (except I still work too much, but that is pretty much required =)

Some changes around here – updated the look, and working on getting the mobile version up and running. I am also now posting under one of my gamernames (yes, the irony is not lost on that). I will probably continue to tweak around on the site as I discover what little goodies WordPress has thrown out over the past year.

Anyhoo – feels good to be writing again, and looking forward to talking with you soon.

/hugs

 

CHROME

No, not this – but this. Google released it’s beta of a web browser yesterday. It is, as reported, very minimalist. Page load times are very fast, and whether you love or hate google, it is definitely worth downloading to give it a shot. So far, everything I have tried with it has worked just peachy.

Will spend some more time today trying to break it (that is what betas are for, afterall) but my first impression is very simple. If this simple app can do everything IE/Safari/FFox can do, and faster and cleaner, what the hell is running in the background in our current browsers?

Nice cartoon here, explaining a bit.

Edit: Check out these sections of the Chrome End User Licence Agreement

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non- exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

 11.2 You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

17.1 Some of the Services are supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions. These advertisements may be targeted to the content of information stored on the Services, queries made through the Services or other information.

Scary, Scary stuff. The language is every open ended in 11.1 and 11.2.

Corrosion

My 3 year old son is in his “why?” phase. I knew this day would come, and have spent the past three years preparing for it. I refuse to give in and tell him “because I said so”, or “stop saying that”, and have mentally prepared myself for when he goes off on the “why?” chain. I break down each question to a more micro level until it borders rediculous. A typical exchange between the two of us goes something like this:

  • HIM: Dad, why are those two people kissing?
  • ME: Because they love each other.
  • HIM: Why?
  • ME: Because they met, either at a bar or a wedding or something along those lines, were both completely bored out of their minds, maybe had a bit too much to drink, and became interested in one another enough to get to know each other better
  • HIM: Why?
  • ME: Probably because most people in society define themselves by the partner they choose
  • HIM: Why?
  • ME: Humans have a natural instinct to preserve the species through reproduction, regardless of how overpopulated we have made the world
  • HIM: Why?
  • ME: At our core, we are just made up billions of cells that each perform a specific function, who a long, long time ago decided to hook up with billions of other little cells that performed a different function. Forming these little cell communities it was learned that more could be accomplished including the most important thing of all: survival. Now, when one set of billions of little cells happens upon another set of billions of little cells who has traits that seems to increase that chance of survivability even further there is a mutual attraction to ensure survival of the fittest. Strength in numbers, afterall, sonny-boy.
  • HIM: Oh. I see. Do you love Mommy?
  • ME: Why, yes I do
  • HIM: Why?
  • ME: …

[note: I really should insert something very clever here, such as she is my sould mate, or at bare minimum how she puts up with my often questionable hygiene practices – however the exchange was shared for a specific purpose, not to gain brownie points with my wife. Besides, the brownie point market is cornered by Prada, and I do not want to hedge in on their specialty.]

I know where he gets it, because I am always as interested in the “why?” as I am the fact. When Zubon made the comment that MMO’s compete for his dollars (and as such he has less leniency for post-beta product expectations) I wanted to understand better why I have much more leniency. To do that, I went back and revisited my MMO history and when, and why, I moved from MMO to MMO. Doing this will hopefully shed some light why there always seems to be two camps when it comes to MMO “issues”, so perhaps we can better define these camps – but more importantly, answer “why?”

Why does a new and shiny MMO corrode into old and dull? My first traditional MMO was Everquest – a game that I beta tested. I played EQ from release through the Shadows of Luclin expansion. My experience in EQ was a bit different than most, as I solely played on the testserver (through the item wipe – yay!). Back in the day EQ was magical, and the community I became a part of there was rediculously strong – part because it was the first 3D mmo for a lot of people but also because of the nature of the testserver. While I still make the odd post on my old guild’s website, the posts are typically months in between (but still fun to see people connecting). I still really enjoyed EQ when I left, but time limitations and always falling behind my in game friends was frustrating. Add to that, many people moving on to DAOC, the population dwindled as my time became more valuable, and it was time for me to visit new shores.

I joined DAOC about a year after release, and because of my past positive experience on the EQ testserver rolled up on Pendragon (which was also where some of my guildmates in EQ had gone for the same reason). Shiny and new still wasn’t quite as exciting as when EQ first launched (you never forget your first, right? What was her name again?) and toiled in guild leadership for the first time, in the Pendragon guild ‘Legends’, which was the leader of the Midgard alliance. Many years and RvR battles later and stomaching through the Trials of Atlantis expansion (after the developer inspired destruction of the Pendragon population), the game wasn’t fun for me anymore. My lone Shadowblade without the benefit of his Left Axe anymore, standing at the Emain Macha milegate waiting for something – anything – to kill or die to began talking to himself which surely wasn’t healthy. My co-gm and steadfast friend, Loremon, had left long ago to a new World (of Warcraft). Bile, my shadowblade parter extraordinaire no longer stood with me at the milegate as he was off getting some sort of real job, and Mehlan and his puppy were off driving a motorbike somewhere. Torrential was still around, but he was already planning for his funeral, and the blue color of alliance chat became less about defeating our enemies and more about how much ToA ruined DAOC, or even worse, how possible it was to solo or two man a keep – since that was all that was on the server at the time. While Loremon was resolute on having me join him in WoW, I was never quite ready when he asked. I finally was.

World of Warcraft, again, about a year after launch, was okay. The world didn’t WOW me like the previous two (pardon the pun?) and it was so simple comparatively to my previous two major MMO’s I almost felt my intelligence was insulted at first. It took me a while to shine up to WoW and the busier I became in my professional life, the more I appreciated it as it really worked for my schedule. I rolled a hunter a first (before I knew that everyone was already a hunter, and that no one needed – or wanted one – tagging around for anything back in those days) got to max level in a guild that Loremon was in – and then realized there was nothing for me to do. About that time, Loremon left (damn you!) and while I was with a good group of people, because of the solo nature of WoW I didn’t really know any of them. Everyone solo’d up to max level than began to figure out what to do in a group. There were no true bonds made, and I was ready to hang it up. I started reading boards, and learned how important (and rare) Druids were at the time – Innervate was one of the most important skills in the game back then and I decided to roll a druid, get to max level, and see the other part of what made WoW supposedly special – the end game raiding. The casual and bond-less guild I was a part of fell apart, and I made my trek solo again (not surprisingly), got to where I wanted to be, and began searching for a guild. My needs in a guild were a bit different now, being, uh, old – and I was very specific on what I wanted. The first time I posted on the WoW server boards “Level 60 druid, looking for guild” I received 20 replies the first day. Druids were indeed in demand, and for the first time in my WoW experience, I felt semi important. I joined the Grey Rangers, and it was a perfect fit. Not a bleeding end game content guild but a “hey, there are actually people like me playing in this game” guild. People mattered, families mattered, and the game and progress mattered – but the latter was third on the list. The leadership of that guild had it figured out real nice, and pretty much instantly after I joined that guild WoW turned out to be a good game. Funny how that happens. BC expansion was on the horizon, and the guild changed – we had recruited so many people and different camps had formed on in game expectations (to fill out a 40 man raiding roster) and at that time a small group of people decided they wanted something different when the expansion came with the new reduced raid size. Ascension was born, I somehow greased enough palms to be voted in as it’s Guild Master, and after a rough start and a lot of organizing and hard work with a ton of help from a lot of amazing people, we hit a great raiding stride – suddenly WoW was an AWESOME game. After being a GM for what seemed like a very long time (although much shorter in reality) 18 months into the expansion my professional life became rediculously busy, and while I didn’t have the time to do my GM job properly I somehow made it work – but inside I knew my time was coming. I had no excitement for the WOTLK announced expansion, the idea of levelling again the same old way, to get the same old loot rewards to face the same old raid bosses with maybe a twist or two to mechanics had zero interest for me. The people still did (do) but I couldn’t justify playing a scheduled 15 hours a week anymore with a young family, work overwhelming me, and additional responsibilities in game, so I stepped down, and let my subscription run out.

I did toy with a few other MMO’s during the WoW phase, notably DDO and LOTR but neither did it for me. I beta tested over 15 titles from 1998 to current, but the aforementioned titles are the only games I truely played.

My little personal history lesson has showed me one thing – I leave games when I am ready to, regardless of what is out there on the market. Perhaps that is why I have a lot of leniency for new games coming out of beta and going live, because I am not looking for the new game to “beat” my current experience, rather, I am looking for a new experience – one that fits my current personal, professional, and entertainment needs. My question to you, my esteemed readership (of 5?), is what makes you leave your current titles for new ones?

Why?

Comparing Apples to Starfish

With Warhammer:Age of Reckoning just around the corner gaming boards accross the world have been flooded with impressions and bold predictions, on how WAR will fail, or WAR will kill WoW. I have beta tested this game for a while, and while I will spare you the 1000th review – I will state that I have preordered the CE and will be playing the title instead of WoW. Back to the article title, the inevitable comparisons between the two drive me nuts. Maybe it should be ‘DRIVE ME NUTS’

Here is a tip people – MMO’s don’t kill each other, they kill themselves. The natural life cycle of any MMO is to grow, then peak, then slowly die. WoW didn’t kill Everquest. A 10-million-avid-gamer-comet couldn’t kill the dinosaur, so why do people even begin to think a new title will have any sort of impact on the king of MMO’s? It won’t. What WAR will do, is create another good option for gamers who have outgrown existing titles to move on to. And move on they shall.

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REALITY DOESN’T BITE

My relationship with the Battlefield series started backwards. I was stuck in MMO land for a long time until a WoW guildmate introduced me to Battlefield 2142. The pace was fun, it was a nice change, and I quickly renewed my love for FPS’s with the title. After spending a year or so in 2142, I ended up joining a clan since I was spending so much time on their server. It was a good fit.

I rarely go back and buy old titles. FLOT reintroduced a BF2 server, and wanting more options to play I picked up the complete BF2 pack for $29.99 and jumped right in- and loved it. My criticism of the Battlefield series is pretty simple. I long for a FPS that has realistic strategic and tactic elements. Most FPS’s out right now focus on fun, fast paced gameplay  but strategy and tactics take a back seat. The proof is in bunny hopping, dolphin diving, rocket jumping, grenade jump throwing theatrics. Nothing annoyed me more than having a solid crouch with my weapon ready, an enemy run around a corner I was covering, and before I could drop him he would leap, turn 240 degrees in mid flight, go prone midair and kill me with a headshot before he hit the ground. I don’t blame players – players will take every advantage an engine allows them to be “elite”. I just want a company to build an FPS engine that rewards smart squad play. None really have. Thank god for the mod community.

Project Reality 0.8 is released today, a popular mod for Battlefield 2. Finally, I had my wish. I only found the mod in version 0.75, and for the most part, my dreams have come true.

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