Blizzard

5avourite 5ives

On the heals of 10 questions on WoW, I admit that my favourite pastime in WoW is 5 – man dungeons. It used to be raiding, but I don’t have the luxury of that kind of time anymore. That post got me thinking about which 5 mans in particular stuck out for me – so here we go, starting a 5avourite 5ives and hoping that maybe it catches on – would love to hear other people’s 5avourite 5 mans.

Fight Club  - The 5irst rule of 5ight club

Now, some housekeeping and simple rules of 5ive club – there are no rules. It doesn’t have to be from WoW, or even a 5ive man in that case. Not all games have 5ive mans but try to keep it to introductory grouping (ie: first instances, etc.) I know that 5ive mans can be limiting to open world games (are there any outside of EQ? Vanguard?) and that using 5 instead of F is probably really annoying by now. No matter – I am staying on brand (5-you!). All that being said, if your game doesn’t have a 5ive man but a grouping experience that you would count as that because your favourite game is designed that way, then by all means, share!

Pick one, or several. No matter. Write what you will. Have fun!

My 5avourite 5ive is Black5athom Deeps. (that’s the last misplaced 5, I promise!)

The ‘Deeps’ label always made me laugh. Felt like a spelling error. Shouldn’t it be depths?  Were they being funny reminding the peeps to bring the deeps? Anyway – this was my first 5 man ever (sigh: nostalgia? Again?) and I ran it over and over and over. I became a resident expert of the BFD in the 25-27 level range of Whisperwind. The best part is that we stumbled upon the entrance by accident, and already had 5 friends questing – so we went in, no guides, no clue on what to expect – a proper unscripted adventure.

First off, the back story –

Situated along the Zoram Strand of Ashenvale, Blackfathom Deeps was once a glorious temple dedicated to the night elves’ moon-goddess, Elune. However, the great Sundering shattered the temple – sinking it beneath the waves of the Veiled Sea. There it remained untouched – until, drawn by its ancient power – the naga and satyr emerged to plumb its secrets. Legends hold that the ancient beast, Aku’mai, has taken up residence within the temple’s ruins. Aku’mai, a favored pet of the primordial Old Gods, has preyed upon the area ever since. Drawn to Aku’mai’s presence, the cult known as the Twilight’s Hammer has also come to bask in the Old Gods’ evil presence.

I’m not sure if there is more to it than that – nothing I could find.

The entrance is very cool because it is of standard fantasy fare – an old temple that leads below

looks inviting

 and that leads into a nice broken staircase, or of course, jump down. You swim under the water and the entrance is into a cave. You don’t spend very long in the temple itself.

real men jump!

From there  there are twists and turns, stealthed mobs, and all sorts of glory to be found. You can actually miss parts and find dead ends. It’s a bit convulated and you can miss bosses and other fun areas if you don’t explore the nooks and crannies. There is a very direct route through the end, but the first time we missed 3 full bosses – Lady Sarevess, Old Serra’kis, and Gelihast.  Gelihast was a “d’oh” moment but I became quite famous for showing new adventurers where Old Seraa’kis was.

Those lines exist in certain instances in games now because people get lost. See WildStar.

On this Map Lady Sarevess is through an underwater cavern (2) , and we missed Gelihast (3) because we turned right too early. Old Serra’kis (6) is underwater and way off the beaten path so that’s a little more understandable.

I am ahead of myself.

The first boss is Ghamoo-ra. He is a turtle. I tamed him with my hunter. He dropped green armor, I believe it was the first green armor I had seen. Typical tank and spank fight (most were at this level.

Lady Sarevess avoided capture my first run through but never again. Basic fight except she spams forked lightning so required tanks to turn away from the group. She dropped the first blue bow ol Braack ever had. Blue items felt really epic back then.

Lady Sarevess

Gelihast (3) guarded a shrine that gave a buff. He is also the first real test in BFD and if I recall correctly did some serious damage. Murlocs would wipe us in that room as they were fleeing low on health they would chain aggro – and could grab Gelihast as well.

Gelihast

Lorgus Jett (4) was always confusing for us alliance. He never dropped loot. Ever! Why put in a mob that didn’t drop loot? We thought perhaps it was a bug. Turns out, its a horde only quest line. Every time we killed him we prayed that the loot would finally drop. It never did. He also spawns in a few different areas so was also confusing. I’m really curious what he was there for for the Horde quest. He brought an element of mystery!

Lorgus Jett

When I checked WowWiki for a refresher (all pictures here compliments of them!) I found a boss I didn’t even know about – a summonable boss but only for the Horde side. I am skipping out on that one here, because I honestly had never fought him. So much for being an expert! (Boss 5 on the map)

The 6th boss Old Serra’kis dropped an awesome dagger graphic  and I came back with my rogue to farm a pair. Drowning while fighting him was always a threat and people would sometimes get turned around in his cave, lost, and drowning. you had to take a long way back after killing him but the swim was always awesome after a boss kill and loot drops.

Old-serrakis

Twilight Lord Kelris (7) was what we originally thought was the final boss – he is fun and casts mind control and sleep, so those are always interesting to deal with when you are new to a game. (remember, we are talking launch time here, people!) It’s a tricky room with a few LOS pulls (first time we used those too). Overall, like most of the place, a straightforward fight.

Twilight lord kelris

We wiped before entering the final room a couple times – every time we brought new people through if we didn’t warn them enough. There are for braziers to light in the room, and each attracts a pack of mobs which are pretty easy to kill on their own. If you hit all four they will overwhelm any rookie group – and new people would often run around clicking on all of them – because they could.

That lead to the final boss, Aku’mai.

Don’t let that grainy picture fool you, he is gigantic and a site to behold as a young instance runner exploring a magical place. Dragon sized. It was my first epic battle, we wiped several times before sorting it out. This was before people tanked at level 25, remember. Before dungeon finder, glyphs, all sorts of modern conveniences. The instance was uphill both ways! After you kill Aku’mai you can get a port to Darnassus. We stood around the giant hall at the end searching every nook and cranny – did we miss something? Is that it? We really didn’t want it to end.

7 bosses (8 if you are Horde – damn you!) in sprawling underground caverns hidden from the world beneath a temple. Not much more exciting than that. Of course the exploration and shiny newness of it all is what made it special to me in particular and it is a place that I’ll remember fondly in my dungeoneering career.

I’m glad that it hasn’t been remade and curious to see if Blizzard ever does – I know they like re-purposing content – and I’d be fine with that. Would be interesting to see if they could recapture what I loved about it and I am actually very curious if the sprawling style and unclear pathways turned other people off from it. As far as time goes, this one took a while to run when it was new to you.

I’m sure someone out in blognation has done this before but if not, I’m really curious what your favourite 5 man dungeons were. (See? I didn’t 5 that one! I did promise!) and if you already posted about this some years ago then just pull a Blizzard and re-purpose that content.

10 Answers About WoW

Like many bitter exes (that keep going back) I have done my fair share of beating up WoW on this blog although it always came from a place of “tough love”.

I learned of 10 Years – 10 Questions through Tales of the Argonaut (hat tip!) but the direct questions are asked over here at Alternative.

This looks like fun and I decided to do it – for Science! (or something). I am making a blog post about it (although there are plenty of ways to participate – email, Google docs, etc.) so go check it out!

 1. Why did you start playing Warcraft?

I had a friend, Lorendous, who was a good friend of mine and guildmate from DAOC. He left DAOC for Wow but I held strong. After the Pendragon community was trashed by Mythic I had enough, and finally followed my friend there. My history of MMOs started with EQ, to DAOC and then to WoW and while I have beta tested, bought, and played everything in between EQ was #1a and WoW was #1b. I could actually reverse that if you count personal impact – they are very similar in shaping my gaming life.

2. What was the first ever character you rolled?

Hunter. Sadly. To be fair though, I only got him to level 20. I recently did a post about his LBRS solo runs but to be more honest my first “main” character was (is?) a Night Elf druid. Couchon. He was the one I found my first guild with, the first I got to max level, raided with, etc. Oh, the stories. My old guildies still call me “Couch” no matter what game, what toon, or what class/name.

I switched mains years later to a Shaman (needed the heals, chain heal was king and we were in SSC) and I LOVED enhancement and the unique nature of totems and what Shaman brought to a raid group. I also have a top level Paladin so I can do 5 mans in LFGs  while tanking and a rogue too.

3. Which factors determined your faction choice in game?

Solely my friends. Same with server choice. I was Alliance and did not have a choice in the matter. Later, I did roll Horde but I new everything about the Alliance in and out and had such a comfort level with that side that it made more sense for me to keep rolling there. I did join a Horde guild with some friends once but I only got to level 70(ish) and really, I have so much going on Alliance side I just stayed there.

4. What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft and why?

Not beating A’lar. It was a roadblock for our guild. We could always get under 5% but never won. A guildie was last man standing when he was at 1% (Greenteabag) and that sticks out. It tested us time and time again but we all showed up and did our best. I did, by myself at level 90, long after the guild was gone. It was still satisfying, but I wish we got him. I think its odd that I chose a failure moment as one of my most memorable but the hours we spent together there was bond-building.

Most other memories are around raiding and progression. We were a family, casual guild (that at one point had 13+ kids BORN into the game..) and we were a top 10 progression guild on our server at one point. That was fun.

.... finally ... sorta

…. finally … sorta

5. What is your favourite aspect of the game and has this always been the case?

5 mans. It wasn’t always the case – first it was raiding, but I can’t take the required time to raid anymore (work, life, family, kids) but I love 5 mans. The Dungeons, the lore, the teamwork – it’s how I learned to love tanking because its the fastest way to 5 man glory, progression, and gear to do all of that. It’s actually why I quit Wow in Pandaria – they took away the ability to grind rep through tabards in dungeons and I absolutely HATE dailies – my whole end game was a series of dailies. If I would have been able to grind rep through dungeons I’d probably still be playing.

6. Do you have an area in game that you always return to?

UBRS. It was the first tryout guild run I did with the Grey Rangers, and I was accepted into the guild. That one decision changed my entire gaming career from that point. Druids back then were OK for healing but absolutely essential for Innervate. I was good at Innervating. (yes, its one button. That was tongue in cheek!).

Grey Rangers was a 40 man guild, and it was hard because to field that large of a team we had people in our guild that didn’t really fit. With the announcement of the next expansion going to 25 mans, we broke apart the guild and made our own. Still, in GR I was able to experience all of Molten Core and BlackWing Lair. Our 25 man guild was a blast and some of the most fun I ever had in gaming.

It all started in UBRS.

At the gates, with my druid.

At the gates, with my druid.

7. How long have you /played and has that been continuous?

I’d have to resub to pull that. But I’d almost be afraid to. I was a 4x a week raider, 3-4 hours, 6-7 days a week. I also had top level crafters of almost every profession. I roll 4-5 max level characters (Rogue, Paladin, Shaman, Druid, Hunter) so to add it all up would be tough. I’m genuinely curious though, if I ever sub again (or get a 7 day pass…) I’ll check it out!

8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?

Shit no. Wait – does skimming count as reading?

9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?

When I bailed on the guild I founded. It had changed a lot (I had stepped down from GM) but still a LOT of good people there. My gaming life started changing and a few of my closer friends left to a separate server. I still have a guildbank alt in my old guild and my hunter, and when I sub I go in to see who is still in the guild. I stay pretty quiet though, I bailed on those people. I am still amazed at the number of people still playing in that guild. The commitment is amazing.

10. What effect has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming?

Almost got divorced! A pregnant non-gaming wife will have that effect on your marriage when you are 4+ hours a night, plus constantly on the guild boards, etc. etc. While that is true, it also gave me the confidence and leadership skills. I run a rapidly growing business and it actually helped teach me how to manage people, competing interests, many personalities.

On the whole, WoW added more to my life than it took away – I still have a bunch of Facebook friends from those days and I sneak back in during expansions to poke my head around. It’s not a home anymore for me, more like a cottage – go there for the odd season, evening, or weekend and it’s familiar and fun. The same neighbors are on the same lake and its nice to say hi and rekindle friendships.

And 5 mans. Fun to run those new 5 mans.

Furious Howl 4 and Bite 8

This post was inspired by the Keen Gamer’s post – it’s a great read, go enjoy!

This post is about one of my favorite accomplishments in my MMO gaming – and his post reminded me of that. It’s a not a world first, not a particularly heroic moment (finishing off A’lar while the rest of the raid was wiped) and to you it may not seem like anything special at all. But it was to me – and MMOs need more moments like these. I say that while realizing that game designers are working hard to remove anything of the sort. I am talking about solo taming a pet in a 10 person dungeon in World of Warcraft specifically. Generally, about having challenges and uniqueness in games exist at all.

Back before hunters were EZmode in World of Warcraft (did such a time exist?) you had to tame the right pets to get the right skills to train onto them. There were three Bloodaxe Worgs in LBRS that had Bite 8 and Furious Howl 4 – it was the ONLY mob in the game with Bite 8 (at the time). They were deep within LBRS. Originally, the only way to get it was to stable your pet, and do the entire 10 man LBRS run without a pet and when you arrived at the Bloodaxe Worgs make sure no one damages them while you tame. This was problematic (obviously) and entire pet training runs were ruined by AOE happy mages. Always the mages fault. (I tried 3 times in groups, and mages always screwed it up.)

It’s the giant canines causing Bite 8

Like most things in MMOs  someone found a better way. I don’t know who sorted out that with the use of a couple invisibility potions, smart pathing, patience and gratuitous use of feign death a hunter could do this solo. (I used some speed potions too). The solo hunter Bloodaxe Worg taming became a thing. While there were suggestions and guides it still wasn’t easy. It took me a week to sort out, a lot of failed attempts and tons of fun. When I finally did it the feeling of accomplishment was one of those rare ones that are now given out by the hundreds on everyday playing sessions now. There was no achievement, no narrator slapping me on the back – no bells or whistles, no over-celebration. Just me and my dog with Bite 8. Other hunters hat-tipped me when walking by. They all knew what it took to get that pet. Class respect. Some asked how, and I even ended up taking some other hunters on the same run – it became a thing I did with my hunter. I was good at it. I made friends through the experience.

There they be. Tread carefully!

Now, of course, pets are quite different and you don’t need to do anything like that to get a skill-up – its all homogenized. Bite 8 wasn’t “mandatory” and there were a couple ways to do it if you really wanted it. It’s just one of those great gaming memories where I felt like I earned something and was proud of how I earned it. No quest arrows, no add-ons, a fun and exciting challenge with a reward at the end. The way questing and MMOs should be. In the 100 levels I played in WildStar (tops level 19) there were plenty of rewards while questing but really – I can’t recall a single challenge. No situations in any recent gaming make me think that I had to behave interesting or think outside the box – follow arrow, follow rotation, get praise/loot/xp rinse and repeat. Sure, games may have challenge at end game raiding but the same old argument for years has been made – if the challenge and fun starts with the end game, why not just make the game the end game?

I still appreciated (and did it all the way up through Mists of Pandaria) pickpocketing for epic loot. I actually got the epic throwing knife that way. While less of a challenge of completion and more of grind, it was zen-like. It was also something only rogues could do. That made it special, and a badge of honor if you got one. Not a necessity, or a NPC purchase but a special action that only your class could do and only for people who had the patience to see it through. I never did get my main hand epic via pickpocketing but I spent hours trying – and for me, it didn’t feel like wasted time.

These little “badges” tend to get tweaked out if easily abused or game breaking but I believe game designers should be working harder to add in more challenge and uniqueness for the individual, classes and races. Something they can hang their hat on that may be a little outside the norm. The stealth runs Keen Gamer spoke about is a good example (didn’t they remove these to prevent boss farming with druids and rogues?) and it feels like a lot of fun gaming activities get coded out in order to be “fair and equitable” to the rest of the player base.

Do you have a favorite nuanced event you recall fondly from your MMO gaming past?

Children of the WoW

My son is visiting Grandma – it’s a 10 day trip in the summer. Grandma and Grandpa have a farm and he gets to do all sorts of things that he doesn’t get to here at home. They also have a lot of acreage and I learned last year he was able to drive a Gator – a motorized vehicle that happens to go really, really fast. At 8. With other kids in it, but under the watchful eye of Grandpa. Thankfully Grandpa is a safety nut when it comes to the kids. (Although, he does operate large chainsaws shoeless…) Does that sound like a safety concern? I’m not too worried. I grew up riding my bike without a helmet. I’m confident he is safe. A couple of his cousins are also visiting the farm so he is on a long term playdate. He is having fun and its a nice chance of scenery and pace for him.

Grandma emailed informed me that the kids have been playing World of Warcraft together and immediately I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. She asked me if it was ok in that email and I felt apprehensive.

Let’s do UBRS!

Isn’t that silly? First of all, they are playing in a far more social environment than I ever did – all three of them in the same room. I can imagine them all laughing and having fun around a table. Like pen and paper days, but with the laptops out.

Also – I have let him watch me play WoW before (when he was younger) and he has a SWTOR character that we play together (I liked the story style for him, as well as him having to read and make choices with the wheel..) and he has a WildStar character as well – but I am always there by his side playing so I can filter content, see what he is doing, and see how (if) he is interacting with any adults.

Probably just a trial account, anyway.

I haven’t written much about him, but I have two articles where I did – one that was fun when he was in his questioning phase (and 3 years old – so 6 years ago! And another where I questioned my own parenting skills by letting him see Left 4 Dead game play at the age of 5 (jury is still out on that one). What other 5 year olds LARP a zombie apocalypse?

At the end of it all, after much thought, I was fine with it. Weird to think it may be time where we could actually play together, instead of looking over each other’s shoulder and if that is the case – do we get two subs? Is it WoW, or a different game? Maybe we should F2P something together first.. he loves Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit.. damn, he doesn’t even have a gaming computer or laptop. Will Mom let him use hers for his gaming? Will SHE be okay with all of this?

Funny, being a gaming parent of a gaming kid (who is a Minecraft junkie..) is it time to let him take the leap to a MMO player?

Mixed feelings of apprehension and excitement – this could be fun.

After much thought I emailed Grandma back saying it was ok, but I had to ask a very serious, important question that could shape the future and was critical for me to understand and know about my own child.

“What class did he pick?”

Housing I Would Buy Into (or Rent/Lease)

Housing is all the craze and I’m loving the options. My first (and best) experience with housing in general was in DAOC. We had this nice, big, shiny Guild House! It had crafting, and portals, and trophies.. and was an awesome place where guildmates would spend downtime or whittle away at their trade skills. While there were limitations, it was something that was very cool, was ours, and it promoted spending time together in between the big battles.

I didn’t do housing in any other game – WoW was my predominant after DAOC and doesn’t have it, but I have heard good things about EQ2 housing, LOTRO, and even Vanguard (through Bhagpuss). I can’t comment on those, but I *can* comment on WildStar housing, and ask some questions about WoW’s upcoming Warlords expansion, and some general quirks and oddities about housing in general.

First off, WildStar housing is amazing. I can’t believe the level of customization available. Everything scales, and a pistol prop can quickly become a couch if turned and sized correctly. Your starter plot of land has enough for 4 FABkits (preset style plugins) and two backdrops (larger slots) and I have used a garden (that you can plant seeds into that find around the world) a relic garden (relic is a tradeskill collection item – so they actually grow there and you can harvest) a kiddie pool (funny) a couple party kits with bbqs and the like, and my favorite so far is the Moonshine Stein. You literally get a challenge to produce booze within a set time frame, and doing so successfully gets you a neon beer sign (that you can then scale, twist, and hang to your delight). Yes, you can even drink the stuff and get drunk. There is a fun line of functionality and coolness to items you can place around your yard and inside your house. The best part is you find housing items just by questing and killing mobs. There is also a whole tradeskill (architecture) dedicated to building housing items, of which I did not get into. I wish I would have taken more pictures of my house before beta ended, and I look forward to building a new one come launch. The more items your house has, the greater the rested XP boost you get. So its form and function.

WoW’s Garrisons look to be similar yet less customizable and more plug and play(ish). I only read the announcements and have not seen videos or followed it too closely, but both WS and WoW’s housing suffers from? Separation of community.

Listen, these housing ideas are cool but all instanced. The fun part of building them are completely awesome I agree – but it just further segments the community. I get it – there isn’t enough land in the world to make the housing – and there are some tools available (you can make your housing plot private, friends on, or public in WS) but its still segmentation. Why not make it easy? It isn’t that hard to do.

First off, have GUILD housing. Guild houses can be far more extravagant than typical homes and all guild members automatically get access.

Secondly, soon as you build your own house it automatically goes in the same instance as the Guild House. Each guild member does.

Voila. Now, instead of housing, you have  community. A neighborhood even. A neighborhood tied around a commonality (which is how most communities – digital or otherwise – foster).

If you aren’t guilded you build neighborhoods around “services” – crafting halls, transportation hubs, etc. You put some conveniences in that people want to be around, and draw them to that area and give them the opportunity to build their own communities. For even more fun you could build them around landmarks, statues, wonders of the world (planet) – anything to attract people around a certain area will give them the opportunity to build communities. The boat between continents in EQ, while crappy to wait for and too long of a trip, fostered an awful lot of friendships.

I know I am greatly simplifying a cause and effect but I also don’t think this needs to be complicated. Aligning personal space within community space is just common sense, right?

Does any game that I haven’t played do this better (or worse) than the ones I mentioned? I am genuinely fascinated to hear real experiences instead of feature set sheets!

Flex Builds Ruining Immersion?

I am starting to feel that flexibility on my characters is hurting immersion. I am very flip-floppy on this subject so please help!

In movies and high fantasy typically a hero is “good at one thing”. Legolas has short swords/daggers but really, he uses his bow. And he is famous for it.

Luke Skywalker has a lightsaber, and uses that primarily.

There are many examples of this. Characters are identified by the way they look and the weapons they use almost as much as their personality and grander quest they are on.

I loved sword/torch in GW2 for Guardian – but I had to swap out another weapon mid rotation to maximize my DPS rotation. This just felt silly. My Guardian looked awesome with a torch and sword, press 6 buttons, swap to 2 handed sword, swap back. You don’t see that very often in movies. At least, not at the level of repetition required to get from level 6 to level 8 in a MMO.

WildStar, I fear, has the exact opposite problem. Everyone in the same class has the same weapon (essentially). It may look a little different, but Stalkers use claws, Warriors use 2H swords, Spellslingers dual wield pistols (and on). There is no room for customization except the look of the weapon. You can’t be a Warrior that uses claws.

I feel these things challenges role playing and makes other issues harder. I am assuming these are built in to solve animation and other technical issues.

I still like multiple spec options in gaming, but complete changes is just too much in my opinion (right down to skills in between pulls). There is no commitment to any sort of build or play style. My character is master of fire! and ice! and lightning! and earth! and swords and shields and staves and… and.. and.. (you get the picture.) If you are truly the proficient in all, aren’t you also the master of none? Don’t we want to feel heroic? Why can’t I fill a “role” using whatever weapons and/or look that I want? I feel as though the lack of this ruins the story potential. If I want to make myself a tank that has huge armor and a giant shield, I should be able to do that – regardless of if I want to dps or tank.

Specialization was more consistent for character building. I don’t want to go back to the old days where a healer just healed, and a tank just tanked. What I would like to see is the flexibility for us to create our own character and build them the way we want them to look (appearance wise), with the functionality of what we need them to perform. I know both WildStar and GW2 (among others) do this well with costume features, but that typically doesn’t work with weapons (the most defining feature). This does work in World of Warcraft (cross weapon transmog) if the attack animation is the same.

As I say this, I am reminded that perhaps roles are the issue. There are no tanks, healers, or DPS in Lord of The Rings. They just fight.

Then again, perhaps this thought line is just a portion of the lack of fluff that is missing in the engagement of the new MMO crop.

 

MMO Information / Stats

I love information and believe that all MMOs should be regularly publishing information that is only available to them. This would get rid of the “what ifs” and curiosities of the general population. It would also get rid of the mis-information. Is 50% of the “tanks” a paladin in the end game? Why *not* share that information? It seems most companies are overprotective of their population, class, race and spec mix – for fear that it would somehow influence the population base. The truth is, in the absence of true information players will just guess, hypothesize, and collect as accurate as they can – and still make their own conclusions regardless.

Just give it to them. Give it to us.

One of my favorite sites (now WRIP) was a WoW datamining site. This site wrote scripts to pull information from Blizzard’s armory site. Why make someone sort that out? Provide it! Worst case scenario is that players will jump to the same conclusions they would without the right information (anyway) – best case scenario, we have the opportunity to have a conversation based on facts. That site provided so much perspective that Blizzard refused to – why give the kudos to the individual? Let the company provide the 100% accurate information, AND get the respect and accuracy out there.

This site is interesting, thanks to it! And based off of this conversation, I definitely wanted to share!

http://watchwildstar.com/census

Obviously the information isn’t accurate as the game isn’t even launched, but interesting to see people’s intentions. ALSO it will be very interesting to see 6months in if that is a nice cross section of accuracy. I am thankful that Wildstar devs have previously shared beta weekend population stats and hopefully this is a trend that continues. I will respect Carbine that much more for it.

Ying to the Yang (Yo)

I have been playing EQ a lot. It’s a fun comparative after just playing WildStar for the weekend. I have recently spent time being nostalgic about starter zones in EQ, and decided it would be neat to try out EQ from a new player’s perspective. And that means starting off in Gloomingdeep Mines.

I rolled an Enchanter (one of my favorites) and was ready to experience the ‘new’ EQ.  Some of this is going to be WildStar comparative. EQ arguably does a better hand holding job through the early levels, with a methodical explanation of the systems available from hotbars to questing. Wildstar threw you in with a “oh, you know MMOs” mentality – whereas EQ treats you like you aren’t that smart. As they should! (no offence). I also found EQ is less chaotic, more focused. Do one thing at a time. As mentioned in my WildStar impressions – you need Ritalin. Too much going on too fast. EQ starting zone is much better paced. Challenge! What? I actually died a couple times pre level 5. You have to be careful. Even with a Merc. No such worry in WildStar, where you can play eating a sandwich while watching Doctor Who episodes and still move the levels along. One thing that gets harder to overlook is the graphics are so ugly in EQ. We all know this, but after driving around in the graphics equivalent of being in a Pixar movie, it’s hard to go to Hercules.

Think

Versus

And that might even be too kind. More like c64 era graphics. Anyway. Ugly. All that being said, I can’t recommend EQ to a new person entering the MMO genre, and I LOVE how slick WildStar weekend was.

I  hope some of the old vets still check EQ out. There are always people on (and I am really curious what kind of income it still generates).  The biggest takeaway I have from playing EQ again? EQ has more “flavor”. As a level 3 enchanter I can illusion into all sorts of things, from rocks, to other races.. there are a LOT of spells that are mostly useless you would think – but that adds so much flavor and immersion. I bolded that section because I read a great write up over at Murf’s (who also links to the original thought starter) about WoW class homogenization – and that is what WildStar, among a lot of other games, is missing.

Fluff.

Bear with me on that thought. I have read some tales that Elder Scrolls Online rewards people for going off of the beaten path, and those are the types of things that can make an average MMO great. Are the 14 spells my level 4 enchanter can memorize all used for “optimal” rotations? No. Do they provide opportunities for fun, engagement, roleplaying and gameplay? Yes. From my experience, those are the things missing out in today’s MMO offerings – they are so optimized there isn’t discovery or room for adventure. It’s kind of like taking art class out of elementary school curriculums because it doesn’t pay off in the end. But what is the world really like without art? What is any world without it?

While that is a very broad and sweeping generalization (admittedly!) I am disappointed in Blizzard’s decision to take innervate away from druids. Nerf it to hell if you like, but that has been one of the class defining abilities since launch in WoW (and I know, because I had a raid spot waiting for me because I was one of those rare druids in vanilla wow). Hunter’s mark? Oh, that hunter ability that also is part and parcel with what hunters are. Let’s get rid of that too.  There is nothing wrong with a little bloat – those things don’t have to be on hotbars, but leave them in the spell books – that way players can still play with them when (and if) they want to. Are they getting rid of that Eye of Kilrogg from Warlocks too? I am not trying to live in the past – I don’t even remember the last time I hit innervate when I played WoW. I just dislike the thought that anything unique (see: Shaman Totems in WoW, buffs, etc.) gets homogenized out.

Hell, what if McDonald’s got rid of the Big Mac?

Innovate like crazy. Move ahead. Just don’t forget the things that got you here (there) in the first place.

Here is a good example of how to do it right. Announced, and in testing, is moving Rogue and Feral Druid combo points to the player (instead of the target). This might address why rogues are the least played class in WoW these days (beating a dead horse – but they were once kings of single target DPS, homogenized out of it..) This is a good example of keeping the class core with combo points and fixing around it. It would probably just be a lot easier to drop combo points and give them mana, or rage, or focus – things they have already built systems around. But that would suck, right? Bland and blah is not the answer.

Draft Necro – Hearthstone Classes

Like many bloggers I have a whole suite of post “drafts” – ones that I start and never finish. Periodically I am going to revive these posts, and finish them (or parts of them) even if they aren’t entirely relevant. Why? Why not! Sometimes I fire off a single thought (or several paragraphs) and then get pulled in separate directions, sometimes I just forget. These posts deserve to be finished (dammit!) – The dammit was for some sort of emphasis. Visually, I hand-fisted my desk when I said that (for relevancy). I will call these “Draft Necro” posts, in honor of when a forum Thread Necromancer does their thing.

I may even editorialize my own posts. Why did I write it? What was I thinking? Why didn’t I finish it?

This post, Hearthstone Classes, came to me during the Hearthstone Beta Test.  This post started getting written January 3, 2014.

The main crux of the post was this:

I am shocked you can’t personalize in Hearthstone. Not a lot of effort is in the character art (portraits) and I’d like to choose my favorite shaman when playing a shaman, favorite warrior, (etc.). I know they chose iconic classes but I just felt there was an opportunity here to make it more personal and interesting for players.

Hearthstone is a fun card game, and the complaint above (while minor) still rings true to me. The best part is that there isn’t even that much costs associated with it – just static artwork! At the end of the day, the minor complaint didn’t feel like it was a whole post in its own or really that worthwhile to discuss in the first place – not a lot of people are talking about Hearthstone in my circle of blogs, and admittedly its a pretty minor issue.

Anyway, I cleaned this one out of my drafts box without the delete box for a change – and now trying to sort out whether or not I should have just deleted it after all =)

My Influential 15

One of my favorite blogs to visit is The Ancient Gaming Noob (TAGN) and he recently posted an Influential 15  list – started by another blogger and other sites are also playing along. The parts I read indicated not too many rules, but just do not overthink it – only take 15 minutes, and list them out.

This sounds like fun. I am going in chronological order!

Mario Bros (arcade) (1985)

I spent most of my allowance money playing this game with two of my best friends at the local bowling alley. It was close enough to our school that we could run there at lunch breaks, and always went right after school as well – but just for 20 minutes before racing home. This introduced me to the side scrolling platform [honorable mentions: Ghost and Goblins, Castlevania, Bionic Commando]

Hardball (c64) (1987)

Two teams – the red, power hitting team and the blue, speedy team. That was it in this baseball game. My brother and I played for hours at home – nice to not have to be at the arcade. (I always got stuck with the blue team). [Honorable mention: Madden (I still buy it every few years]

Police Quest (PC) (1987)

My first foray into the Sierra games series (King’s quest, Space Quest, etc.) and it was always a weekend event at one of my friend’s houses who had it. I think it took us 6 months to complete, since we only had limited weekend time (we mostly played outside – kids those days!)[honorable mention – Maniac Mansion]

Street Fighter (Arcade, SNES) (1987)

Another arcade favorite the one on one bragging rights was a blast. Learning the combos, fighting friends (and arcade enemies) for the right to stay on the machine for the next challenger… flipping a coin for the left or right hand side. All sorts of home field advantages. [Honorable mention: Mortal Combat]

Star control 2 (PC) (1992)

Exploration, adventure, discovery. Space. Has anyone come close since? I am avoiding throwing my money at Star Citizen yet watching it closely. That is a completely separate blog post. [Honorable Mention: Wing Commander. If only for the space.]

Doom (PC) (1993)

We had huge contests at university with Doom – inter dorm rivalries. My philosophy class suffered fiercely. I made a philosophical argument about augmented reality to the prof and he BFG’d me. University was so cool. [Honorable mention: Half Life]

NHL 94 (SEGA) (1993)

Oh Sega hockey, with the one move that would score 100% of the time.. that was up to you do defend properly. Both ends of the rink, there was that ONE move. Yet it was still awesome. Plus bleeding heads.

X com (PC) (1994)

Turn based mastery. This is on many ‘best of ever” lists, so not going to explain its full awesome-ness. Many have explained it better than I ever could. Xcom is the perfect example of a game you loved but refuse to play it again. I have it through steam. It sucked to relive it – but awesome the first time around. We are not conditioned to accept failing the first X missions before we have a chance. (see what I did there?) [Honorable mention – Civ 1 – bit of a stretch, but very turn based]

Baldur’s Gate (PC) (1998)

I had played a lot of Pen and Paper games and this one reminded me the most of them. I hadn’t played a lot of D&D at the time  and this was my first real foray and experience into that. I don’t even remember if I won or what happened in the game – I just remember the hours spent hunched in the darkness… in amazement. Just one more encounter. One more.

Rainbow Six (PC) (1998)

The AI could be buggy as hell when you were planning your rescues, but this was an AMAZING shooter – one shot and you are dead, get caught/spotted and the hostages are dead. Great premise and superbly executed at the time. You could do many missions in many different ways and had the choice of your own path. The planning and thinking part was as exciting for me as the executions. And oh yes, permadeath! [Honorable mention: Counter Strike]

Everquest (PC) (1999)

The MMO game changer that has spawned 100 clones, for better or for worse (often better, jaded vets may argue worse. It doesn’t even matter anymore. It was awesome and really kickstarted the genre.) It has ruined MMOs for me since, but that is also because of the testserver play environment (hint: community). The rose colored glasses often adorned!

Sims (PC) (2000)

Sims the original was the first game that I could get my girlfriends to play. And my non-gaming roommates. It was the first time I realized games could be for everyone. Then I invented the Wii. (or should have, at least). All that being said, I am pretty sure the things my girlfriend at the time did to the Sims (or tried to do) made me realize that maybe she wasn’t the one. Sicko. May have saved my life.

Dark Age of Camelot (PC) (2001)

My second MMO I played the heck out of and my first real PVP experience was also amazing. I also played on the testserver (Pendragon) and the strength of the community there really improved the overall experience. Sadly, game developers have learned that test servers make bad for the quick hitting types of testing they want with enough sample size, and they don’t really exist anymore. The lesson they should have learned is that smaller, more dedicated communities make for stronger ties. Another post. DAOC taught me to embrace PVP and how humans always beat AI on experience – always.

World of Warcraft (PC) (2004)

What to say? The most successful MMO ever made took an inaccessible genre and made it easy for everyone to participate. While I have spent my fair share of time arguing WoW has hurt the MMO space in many ways, you cannot argue against its influence. I still go back every expansion, do the theme park rides, /hug and /hi to my friends still playing, and then out again.  I think the next MMO Blizzard makes is going to say a lot about what they have learned from WoW. I’m intrigued.

Battlefield 2142 (PC) (2006)

The multiplayer FPS I judge all other FPSs against. It was great. It was better than great – it was awesome. The kits, the vehicles, everything. COD always felt too twitchy and gamey in comparison (even the DICE successors did) and I started playing more strategic, slower paced shooters afterwards. BF2142 was just the perfect balance for *me*. [Honorable Mention: Project Reality]

That’s It!

There is my list! Crazy, and a *bit* sad that the most recent game launch on my list is 8 years old already, but influence is influence. As I re-read this there were a few I wanted to add (RTS such as Warcraft -or- Command & Conquer) but I decided to keep it pure – the ones that spoke to me first. I’m sure as I read through other’s lists I’ll have many an “aha!” moment. I hope mine brought along some positive smiles and memories!

Funny Thing Happened To Me On The Way To Kill Evil..

.. I started having fun in Diablo three.

There are three clear reasons (ironically!)

1) The 50%+ EXP boost. I gained more levels (in one day) then I did in all my prior hours of play sessions when the game first launched. With a game that scales with levels.. who cares how slow you gain? This meant I received new skills faster and had a nice pace to improving (and having fun).

2) Loot is fixed. The 2.01 patch took away what was arguable the worst inventory management system created for a loot piñata style game. My prior playthroughs I had to constantly return to town to see what was worth keeping from the piles of loot I had (and unified storage). I get it- they MADE it that way so you could sell/buy and do real money transactions. We all know that failed and they removed it, but you could tell when it launched they were gating the thing that made Diablo 1 and 2 awesome in the first place. Finding cool loot. I got a legendary on my first day playing (something I didn’t get in a month of playing when it launched)

3) IT feels better. Things are smoother (always on is still on.. *blargh*) but the game just runs better and it makes for a better gaming experience.

I find it amazing that when games are made with the gamers in mind (instead of monetization) how they instantly become better.

 

Dry Spells and Random Stuffs

This happens to me often with gaming – I hit dry spells.

This occurs when life gets too busy and/or games get a bit dry for me. Thankfully, right now I am in the former – just busy. This, in turn, makes blogging more challenging because if you aren’t playing then there’s not much to talk about. And if you do have time you would rather be playing instead of writing about it.

We call these, “first world problems”.

I’m 25 rubicite away from the final crafting upgrade in EQN:L and its probably a solid 3 hour burn/zengrind. Excitedly, there is a patch on Thursday that promises new biomes – SNOW! I love the outdoors and my favorite backdrop is a lake, but also love winter sports/shenanigans so hey, I’ll take a frozen lake and snow. This raises a couple quick conundrums.

One is that I like my claim, and where I am. There is a ton to do with it and we are only a couple patches away from claim expansions which makes it a whole new world for building. My good friend Mehlan has joined the game and claimed beside me so logging in now I find him there, waddling away, so I can say hi and hang out. So for those two reasons alone, not moving.

The second is hopefully they have meaningful seasons – has any game? I don’t recall. Why can’t I have my lakeside cottage.. and winter wonderland for half the time? Something tells me to add that to the “captain obvious yet awesome” list of what would make the same-old MMO the new-awesome MMO. (See: combat mechanics, leveling mechanics, endgame content, equipment issues . etc.)

Oh, EQN:L tip if you are feeling lonesome, /join general (chat) – people are connecting there and always a stream of chatter. Makes the nights fly by.

I’m starting to wonder if I really am done entirely with World of Warcraft – usually I play out the expansion to the end but the daily grind of the uh, daily grind quests of MoP had me leaving early in the expansion. Now I feel less connected to WoW than ever and I wonder if that slide means the end and no Warlords of Draenor for me. My friends still play and I miss their chatter (and envy their dedication).

I didn’t get far in Diablo III – level 20 I think? Before I realized this game wasn’t as fun as the first two. The potion chugging loot-fest just got boring fast. I heard there have been some nice changes so I may check it out again. I did pay for it, after all. Something tells me I may like the Crusader class but there better be a trial or something – not shelling out more for a game that didn’t capture me in the first place.

Speaking of games I didn’t finish/start, GW2. Level 37 was my breaking point. I read a lot of bloggers who love it but I now feel I am so far behind the story that I missed out on the game. Is that the danger of too many updates?

I was >< that close to becoming a LOTRO blog for a while and even queued up the Warden (after much bitching about it) but alas, right now its EQN:L or bust. And bust it is.

Again, the worries and problems of a modern day adult gamer. Too much to do, not as much time to do it. Somehow manage to blog about it though.

Hopes and Dreams and Tools

Could EQN:L lead to a full blown platform to make our own games? While I don’t think so, I like to be positive and for a change think “why not”.

Very blue ocean thinking but take Landmark, add in Story Bricks, and an item editor\creator and quest builder and voilà – you have many tools to make custom MMOs. From my understanding not much programming is needed. The world building tools alone in EQN:L have proven that even I could build simple town assets or landscapes that players could traverse. Programmers are making the tools better all the time, lets make them great, add some scripting and unleash the collective MMOspace’s imagination.

I‘d bet we’d finally start seeing the games we want.

The best FPS I have played was community created with Project Reality (by Black Sand Studios) who have literally spent YEARS working for free, in a community across the globe in partnership. Graphics, scripting, game modes – everything!They have produced the best paced, most realistic shooter on a 10 year old engine. Rumor has it this effort will lead to a standalone title – I wish them the best and hope it happens. It has won many modding awards. Imagine if they had even better tools than were available for that old game (Battlefield 2)

Take MMO/World Building tools, and unleash them to the world. You know collectively gamers would come up with something incredible. The landscapes some alpha players have created in EQN:L rival those in published games I have played. Human beings have a desire for art, sharing, and collaboration – all things needed to create a true next gen MMO. Many would share their talents just to get creative license and experience on a project – which could lead to bigger and better things.

We crowdsource funding, why not crowdsource talent? Zooppa does this for companies. Instead of getting one solid idea from an advertising company that has been institutionalized, throw it out to the passionate creators on the planet. Put in an incentive, and watch the magic unleash. The proliferation of cheap HD cameras, computers, and editing software has pushed this renaissance – the tools. Are we really that far off?

Heck, we can build immersive, amazing games on 24 hour contests imagine what we could do with months or years. I believe all of us have a game – or part of a game – to share. Together we could make that a reality – if we only had the tools.

How could a publisher benefit? Many ways. Way back in 2008 I was arguing for different revenue models that could be beneficial for both player and developer. Licensing, % of sales, buying and selling of the creative content itself – EQN:L is building a model to support this already. Picture it on a bigger, grander scale.

Having a glass is half full kind of thought train here. I’ll return to regularly scheduled pessimism shortly.

 

5 Mans

First, an aside.

When reading Rivs blog on my blogroll this comment stuck out to me:

it’s nice seeing people reading what you write. It was easier to comment on blogs, nowadays it seems you have to jump through hoops of fire to comment on a blog.

Which I find is true for a lot of blogs – they want a link to my Facebook, or google plus. There is typically a WordPress option and while my blog is WordPress based I own the URL so I can’t use “open ID”. So often I want to participate on a blog, only to find out I can’t without using either something that identifies me personally in real life, or sign up for something new. When I comment on blogs I want to use my blogging name! Thankfully, most blogs do have ways (name/url) and use programs like Askimet to filter out the spam, and/or have a separate approval process.

I was reminded of this when I read a post here at The Sith Paladin while hunting for new blogs to read and saw he was calling for more 5 mans – and I agree! Unfortunately I couldn’t quite post that there so I am here, and linking it instead.

I tend to try not to link other blogs in my posts unless I am giving them cred for inspiring a post, or reposting a good find (flash games, etc.) because I prefer to be active on other people’s blogs where the thoughts originated. So, with that being said, where I CANT do that, I’ll just post here and link. Best of both worlds (for me)

End aside.

So, to the 5 mans – I have ALWAYS loved 5 mans. It is time well spent in a small group, doing something other than grinding or dailies.  I once posted:

Instances: WoW has ~80 pre-cap instances, (when you count instance wings and heroic modes) and only 22 targeted for max level. Isn’t that split in reverse? Shouldn’t there be 20 instances before the cap, and have 80 instances when you hit the cap – wouldn’t that make it harder for players to “run out of content” fast when the game truly begins?

and still believe it is a good design decision. Simply put, old hardcore players (and raiders) such as myself, we are growing in number. We have often started single (lots of gaming time), got a job (less gaming time) got married (even less gaming time) had kids (super less gaming time) and are settling into a place where we can’t enjoy the games we love in the same way. Sure, I can raid LFR now in WoW, but I can’t be part of a full blown 3x a week raid team – it just doesn’t work for me.

Jumping into a 30 minute 5 man would though. In fact, that would be enough to resubscribe me to WoW. Even when WoW had godawful faction grinds, the fact that I could do them in 5 mans made it manageable for me (and conversely, when they moved to a Daily Quest only format it pushed me away from Mists). In Warlords of Draenor, they have an opportunity to get me back.

Or any MMO for that matter. It could be a good strategy to get a certain type of gamer in a certain point of their life where they want the experience, but can’t make the same commitment they once could. 5 mans could be an avenue to do that.

 

Squelch

Curious curiosity – you cannot talk to your opponents in Hearthstone.

I find this very odd.

For a social game and gaming company as Blizzard who once wanted people to be their real selves while online to take away a basic chat function is puzzling. What are they afraid of? Its a head to head game, so there is no chance of cheating. The only possibility I can think of is that they are afraid games will go on too long – but there is a turn timer built in for that already too.

Harassment? Trash talk? Why is Blizzard so afraid to give the opportunity for two people to talk in a card game? Isn’t that the point of a card game – socialization?

They do give you right-click standard options “Greetings”, “Oops”, “Sorry”, “Taunt”, (etc.) and they have carefully designed those in such a way that you can only do so many in a time frame so you can’t ‘spam’ the presets.

And if you do, your opponent can right click on you and ‘Squelch’ you so you can’t Greet, Say Oops, Sorry, or Taunt them. All in all, a TON of effort has been put into limiting player interaction in Hearthstone.

I just can’t understand why.

Improvement Realization

I don’t mind losing when I play games. Part of this is from the old MMO raiding mentality where we knew we would die several times while “learning” the fight. It was the ultimate proof that if you kept practicing, and learning, and get a bit better everyday, and learn to work as a team better, you win. The more you beat an encounter the easier it becomes. This whole process makes sense to me and is easy to put time into. That example is very PVE centric.

PVP/FPS games you lose a lot but doing so learn about your enemies – what they like to do, how they perform, what they are capable of, what strategies they employ (etc.) This allows you to change your strategies and adjust at the next encounter. You learn and get better.

I am having a hard time even knowing if I am learning in Hearthstone. Yes, it is still in beta but due to the prior discussions I have had on here that decks can easily be stacked with pay to win – I can lose 10 games in a row with a deck/class and then win 10 in a row using the exact same techniques. This doesn’t give me any clarity:

  • Did I lose/win because they had a better/worse deck than I did? How can I tell?
  • Did I lose/win because they were a better/worse player than I am? How can I tell?
  • Did I lose/win because the built in matchmaker gave an insurmountable advantage/disadvantage? How can I tell?

This is the main beef I have with the game so far – I can’t tell if I am getting better (or worse) and there are no clear indications to help me figure that out.

Stamina

One nice integration with the Hearthstone beta is that my WoW-playing friends still show up on my friends list in Hearthstone. At first, they seemed really excited that I was coming back to WoW… until they realized that “oh, you are playing that card game thing”.

Personally I am surprised at how many of the same people are still playing WoW. Most in the same guild, with a lot of the same people. It isn’t just WoW either I have a lot of gaming friends who are still connected in EQ.  In both cases that is a lot of years playing the same games.

With the reoccurring arguments about community erosion in modern day MMO I am starting to doubt if that is entirely true. Sure, it is taking on new forms and shapes (cross-realm, casual raiding, etc. etc.) but you have to give some credit to the longevity that people are playing the same old games, often in the same old way, with much of the same old people.

I am looking forward to Warlord’s of Draenor so I can buy it, play it for 6 weeks and wait for the next one – even picky little me keeps going back. I suppose I’m more of a sprinter while my old friends are long distance runners.

I just don’t have that kind of Stamina for gaming.

 

M2P – Motivation 2 Play

I haven’t had a chance to dig into LOTRO: The Warden’s Return (self titled) with all the fun holiday shenanigans on the go. I have been playing Hearthstone daily and I have noticed a curious reoccurrence to my playing pattern. I just play to finish the daily quest(s).

This doesn’t make a ton of sense to me because the reliance on daily quests to advance in WOW made me quit the game.

This does  makes sense in one regard – it isn’t WOW and  since it is beta, and I’m not spending money in the beta (although they are offering you a free, special card if you give them money during beta – limited 1 per player) I can only advance myself in a couple methods. One is levels, which you get a bit of XP every game. From what I can tell levels only help to get free, class specific cards (which you can get other ways as well). They are reskins (gold) from regular old cards. Most of that is not motivating for me. A gold framed card with some moving graphic elements is just as handy to me as the plain one that does the same thing.

The second advancement is by getting new packs of cards (5 to a pack) and there are two ways. Spend $$ (which I already shared I am not willing to do in this beta) or get points. You need 100 points to get a deck of cards, and there are two ways to get points without spending money.

1) Win three games. Not in a row or during a specific time frame – every 3 games you win you get 10 points. So 30 wins for a deck.

2) Finish any quests that may be available at the time. I have had three at the most, and I believe you get one a day. So if you skip a couple days you have a few extra quests waiting. In my experience, these quests give 30 to 60 points so it is always worthwhile to do. They also do a good job of forcing you to play other characters as some quests are win X games as a Y (Paladin, Shaman, etc.)

Matchmaking is feast or famine depending on who else is on at the time so you might win 3 in a row and then lose 10. It is a slow grind to 100 points. So the wins in (1) above are just in the normal time frame of trying to complete (2).

(2) is the way to go. I log in, do my quests and then….

Logoff. After getting the efficient points I find there isn’t much else motivating me to play. Don’t get me wrong I’m having fun but there isn’t anything else to do after that. There is RANKED play but right now that is filled with people who have these crazy cards I can’t get without spending a lot of money or a ridiculous amount of time doing activity (1). I am limited on what I can do with (2).

This makes me think about other games and what has M2P in the past and it was a combination of leveling, gearing, and people. Definitely not in that order.

 

Hearthstoned

Full disclaimer – I am not big on card games. Actually, to be more clear – fantasy hard games. I didn’t play Magic: The Gathering, or Pokémon, or any of those fine pastimes. Pull my nerd card if you have to. I did play quite a bit of Texas Hold’em and other traditional card games so I understand basic concepts on how cards work. Card tricks are also fun to watch.

When I was invited to the Hearthstone beta I thought it could be a fun way to enter into the fantasy card space. Blizzard has a history of ease of entry and since it is all digitized I wouldn’t have to worry about spilling my beer over any actual cards. This could work!

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The nutshell review: Fun game, but completely pay to win. Saying that, you may say “duh, its a fantasy card game!” and they all revolve around what cards you have and how much you spend. The obligatory analogy here is playing Texas Hold’em but depending on how much your opponents spent, they may have 10 aces available in their deck and you only have 4.

As soon as the playing field isn’t level to start you don’t have a game of skill, you have a game of chance – but one heavily influenced by how much money you have invested in your “chance”. I will agree with you that Poker is also a game of chance but it is one where all players know what cards are in deck.

You can also not spend and still grow your deck but cold hard cash skips over any effort. You might get one pack of cards a day, every day, if you play a couple of hours. Or, you could get 100 packs in 5 seconds. Up to you.

That being said, I am still going to continue to play it in the beta – I am having some fun while learning and because I haven’t anything personal invested in it (except some time) I don’t mind that it is built around the frustrating aspect of most PVP that its 81.93% “blowout” 18.07% “close”. There isn’t a lot of evenly matched because you have several random aspects. 1, the skill/experience of your opponent. 2, how much they have spent on their decks.3, how they have built their decks and 4, what random drawing order of the cards has occurred. I suppose you should add a 5, the random drawing of your own cards (and I will assume at this point your own skill isn’t random.. right?). There are a few extra chance and pay to win elements there that aren’t available in traditional card games.

Perhaps the ‘fantasy cards’ industry is built around this and everyone is accepting and understanding of this. As an outsider just dipping his toe into the space it is a bit of a turnoff.

World of Warcraft – Random Thoughts About the Expansion

So, Warlords of Draenor.

I have had a long tenure with World of Warcraft. From hardcore raiding through Vanilla, multiple accounts, multiple licences, to guild leadership in a progression guild through WOTLK. Half way through WOTLK I gave up on WoW and the sub model. It remains the one game I have spent the most money on (historically/total) and I still go back each expansion to say “hi” to my more consistent/stubborn friends (who still play), get to the next level cap, and bid adieu.

I have a lot of emotional experiences in WOW – all positive. So many good gaming friends (that I miss – some still in touch with, but most have gone to non-gaming pastures of “real life”) and I would probably play WOW still if there wasn’t a subscription. There is a comfort and familiarity there that is still fun, and I find the 5 mans smooth. The 30 minutes in and out is good for my current lifestyle as well. I have invested so much time and cash into it they should probably thank me and give me a lifetime subscription. Customer Service is not the inter-webs strong point.

Couple Random thoughts on what I have learned about the expansion:

Mists of Pandaria lost me because you HAD to do daily quests to advance. In WOTLK you could grind reputation through dungeons, but not in MoP. I can’t stand doing dailies – its the WORST part of WoW for my playstyle. They are getting rid of them as a gating mechanism in WoD.  Hopefully this is a push towards allowing players to enjoy the game the way they like the most. WoW gates at every step – at least let players choose which gate they have to walk through.

You get a free level 90 (any class) with the expansion. Waiting on specifics here, but EVERY new character should be a free level 90. 1-89 teaches nothing of the game anymore.

The best (and smartest) news I have heard is that they are pushing for ONE gear set regardless of spec – and that when you switch specs, the gear will switch intelligently to reflect the item budget you need.

I called this a good move in 2008.

If Blizzard really liked you (us) they would change itemization – not provide a double-grind to the already solid grind. Easy in some cases, harder in others. I like to use arbitrary numbers, so here goes. ONE raid gear set regardless of spec. Change how your character USES that set.

And my final initial takeaway, to make Wolfshead happy, is that WoW is down to about 7M members. The giant is dying. At the rate of decline, it will still be #1 for the next 5+ years.

I have been gaming all sorts of odd games – and I will be back to share some neat things I have sorted out, including what it is going take to make a MMO that captures the awesomeness that WoW (and MMO’s) were.

 

Playing the Free to Play Field (Non-Committed)

Kind of feels a bit like speed dating.

As good a time as it is to be a gamer these days with all the free-to-play options I am actually a bit sullen. Unlike my wife, I just can’t commit to any games. I could argue it is because of the game themselves but I am starting to think it is more because of the payment model.

I have downloaded a lot of FTP games lately.

Star Trek Online: I have updated it 3x, logged in only once, and haven’t been past character select

Star Wars The Old Republic: Perfect to play as a single player game to check out the storylines now that it is FTP, but I have only managed 8 levels and 3 play sessions over the past 30 days.

EQ(1): Nostalgia. Log in and run around with the old toons. Cannot be bothered to figure out how to play it again =)

GW2: I update it and log in but I never got the feel or enjoyment from this game. I call this FTP because there is no sub!

LoL: I play a match daily still, and it’s getting my best playtime.

Of them all League of Legends is the clear cut winner as I am navigating through a SoloQ ranking system. So there is an investment there, a goal, something to measure my playtime against. I so very badly want to give the others a fair shot but my time is at a premium and I just don’t feel invested – or have enough carrot/stick to GET invested.

When I jumped back into WoW I had a goal to reach max level, and gear up enough to get into Looking For Raid. And since I was paying a sub to play there was an automatic investment.

Maybe that is it – the sub fee helps commit you to the game. Do you find the same thing?

MMO Bucket List

One raid boss that Ascension always had issues with was Al’ar. Not sure why, but he was particularly nasty. So much so, that while we got everything down around him, we never killed him in particular. I hated Al’ar.

I remember one night, when I was on healing duties on the add pickup (good old GreenTeaBag, Druid), everyone had died except GTB and Al’ar was under 1% and he was last druid standing. he ended up dying, and that was the closest we ever got. It’s historical in our little group of friends and raiders because that was the night he threw his mouse against the wall in frustration. Oh, Al’ar, how I hate thee.

Today, I logged into my 90 Prot Pally and killed him in minutes. Not nearly as satisfying as it would have been in the old days, or in our 25 man raid group that bonded and was a great team – not even close to that. It never can be.

Still, I can cross it off my MMO bucket list, at least.

Do you have anything on your MMO bucket list?

I Am Alone In My MMO

Amazing things have happened in MMO advancement. Graphics, systems, play styles, game modes, etc. etc. etc. We have come a long, long way from multiple week grinds to get a level and losing all of your items (and even levels) upon death. Most of us, while we may look fondly back on the memories of those times, never, ever ever want to go back there again.

It was good when it was good. It was all we knew.

It forced us to need each other.

Not just EQ, with it’s punishing death penalties and XP bars that wouldn’t move for days.

I’m talking DAOC as well. In that game if you didn’t have players you didn’t really do anything. And when you were doing anything you had to always be on your toes in case there were other players.

Both had their own special magic because of the other player component. Both of those games made ties that have lasted the test of time, wow clones, and free-to-play bonanzas. Is anyone making them now?

GW2 – beautiful game. I leveled to 40 on it without being in a group, and barely working alongside other players. Granted, I went into that game solo, but wow – trying to talk to people in that game left blank stares and worse. After 40 levels of solo content, I just stopped logging in.

Even WoW – in a guild there, but WoW is so antisocial now. Log in, solo dailies, do a 5-man heroic, logout – all without typing a word. There are people there, but they might as well be NPC’s. It’s like I’m dancing with myse-elf. And sadly, I’m in a guild. What happened to epic guild chat? Green /gu flying up and down the screen? Too many buttons, and no downtime happened.

The only conversation I have had with anyone is my foray back into Blood Bowl. Matchmaker online puts you 1v1 and there are 2:00 min turns – turn based. So you have 2 minutes to chat to your opponent while he is making his moves, and he chats back while you are making your moves.

Downtime = Chat. Chat = connecting. Connecting = sense of belonging/camaraderie. Which all equals paying the monthly fee, continuing to play, contributing to the community, etc.

Maybe I am doing it wrong, but what I wouldn’t give for some downtime.

2008, 184 Posts, 18 months of (mostly) silence, and missing you!

I can’t believe I started this blog in 2008. Yes, it only has 184 (often misguided) posts, and no, I haven’t really checked in in a year and a half. And yes, I do miss you.

‘You’ having two contexts, of course.

One, is writing. I think critically all the time for work, and write all the time for work – rarely for enjoyment. That was what I accomplished here. I had a ton of fun.

Two, is actually you. You who is no longer reading this, but used to. And who would comment, and challenge me, and link posts back.

While I still follow the community for the most part, I stopped participating. Not only, not participating (by not writing), but also, by not commenting. Not supporting the online community I was once part of.  Yes, I am feeling a bit old and tired and once again waxing nostalgia.

When I stumbled upon the news that EA’s CEO was retiring due to revenue issues and remembered that I lead a revolution (ahem) to stop buying EA products. It made me want to post. I thought I remembered making fun of him for being a terrible blogger, but that was some other EA dude. So, like many things that go as you age, I blame it on being a natural loss of general facilities.

So here I am writing, and it feels good. I played a lot of League of Legends on my own, ditched it because of the community. Played GW2 for a while, ditched it for lack of community. And oddly enough, against everything I ever fought for in computer games and posts here, I am a WoW subscriber again (albeit only a handful of hours a week). Why? Community. My friends are still there. Many never left.

Which circles back to blogging – for a few years I was tight with blogging, and regardless why or how I lost my desire to be a part of the community, I assure you it was me (not you). So I am back. I am not changing the title of the blog but the format will cover more about life in general with a gaming slant here and there – I am not on top of the gaming news, trends, or fads anymore. Good thing there is far more to life than gaming (and blogging about it).

Sad to see Wolfshead hasn’t blogged in a while and I think the whole blogging idea  wasn’t about expecting or implementing change in our online universes, but sharing ideas about how those might look someday.

So, going to poke around and say hi to you in your corners of the blog-o-verse, and stop by here once in a while to share stories and thoughts, when the need and if the desire arises. My therapist recommends it.

Nice to see you again.

 

Tuesday Ramblings.

I don’t post nearly as much when I am playing. One of those funny things – when I play a lot, I don’t post. When I’m not playing a lot, I post. With limited gaming/personal time, it just works out that way.

I am in, and there is, a SWTOR beta. That’s all I am allowed to say (NDA wise). No no, not sharing any impressions either way, just sharing what I am allowwed to share. And that’s it.

I have done a lot of beta tests at various stages, and the amusing part always is the disconnect between customer expectations based on released information, and what you see know when you are ‘in the know’ – hands on, so to speak. This observation is completely unrelated to my sentence prior, but is a pretty consistent and common theme in the beta tests (in general) I have participated in.

On a side note, I am somewhat shocked at the lack of World of Pandas/Pokemon rage. When I read the announcement I started going to some of my favourite blogging sites to enjoy reading pages upon pages of hate and anger. Perhaps it was because Blizz’s next step down wasn’t a surprise to anyone (anymore), or that bloggers just tend not to care about WoW anymore. If I missed any good posts on it, please link them.

I actually like the idea of the monk class (a personal favourite in EQ) but everything else is both unsurprising and uninspiring. I will tip my hat to Blizzard for fighting to the end, trying to break the standard-ish MMO growth curve and climb then slow decline. On a somewhat unrelated note, Zynga’s IPO is due soon. Not sure why that popped into my head when writing this section.

Best blogging post I read this week goes to the BBB, and it’s not even game related. JP sure has a way of tackling a polarizing topic in such a way to encourage thoughtfulness on the subject. While many may not agree with him, he hits the nail on the head, and it’s a brave post considering his normal subject matter. (It’s also a sad statement to qualify a post about human rights as being courageous – but you know what I mean. Right?)

Have a few posts I have been plugging away on in the background that I’ll get to this week. Time permitting, of course =)

I did say ramblings, after all.