EA

WHERE’S THE BEEF?

By “beef”, I mean “data”. This is a dream world post. I often dare to dream. Mythic is very proud of their meta data collection and hey, I would love them to throw some of that our way. Developers are always very protective of their data. Gamers are always very hungry to understand more. When I go to the server selection screen and see Order population: Low, Destruction Population: Medium – what exactly does that mean? Where is the magic line between low and medium? Is low 399 characters, and medium 400? Or does that mean there are 10 order and 900 Destruction? Why can’t we  know this?

MMO’s do a great job of collecting, displaying, and using data in every click, keyboard press, and number crunch. Send some of that love our way! MMO’s are a big time investment and I want to make decisions when choosing my server and class on hard data. I know, I know – “play what you like” – and I do, but hey, what if I like four different classes and want to play “what my realm would like”. Spit out the numbers for me : Order has 100 tanks between levels 1-10, 50 tanks between 11-20, and 1 tank between levels 21-30. I don’t see why it would hurt to tell us this. (Admittedly, this information is pretty useless at the launch of a game, but once you get a couple years in it can be very valuable for me as a gamer to make choices!)

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THE WARbert REPORT: STONETROLL CROSSING

Stonetroll Crossing is the T2 scenario for EvC. It is a murderball/flag capture mechanic with some fun twists. At the top of the spiralling mountain in the center of the map is a “pacifier”. You have to grab the pacifier, then travel to three troll groupings around the map and “pacify” the trolls – all within a set time period or the pacifier resets. The trolls aren’t just there for good looks though – they hurl rocks around the map causing an inconvenience along the way. For example, if you try to park a few people where the pacifier spawns while it is in control the trolls will toss some rocks at you and knock you off the mountain. This scenario does a lot of good, and ensures a level of back and forth gameplay that is missing in Phoenix Gate and Mourkain Temple.

Those of you in beta remember what Stonetroll Crossing used to be – a king of the hill scenario! The trolls were still there being a pain, but the whole purpose of the match in the old beta days was to hold the flag at the top of the hill which had a timer capture mechanic similar to Nordenwatch. Problem back then, was that the way the terrain is designed it was pretty much impossible to take the hill once it was captured – it was a ranged DPS nightmare and heavily favored meelee – the new way it works is much more player friendly.

Match typically goes like this: Both sides beeline for the pacifier and whichever gets it attempts to pacify the three troll groupings within the specified time. In my experiences having the pacifier isn’t any sort of guarantee with the side failing upwards of 50% of the time

People generally forget that: You have a short time frame to get to all three objectives. Slowing down the enemy pacifier is as effective as killing them outright.

The “oh – po0p” moment: Your team is spread out all over the place guessing which section the enemy will try and pacify next, they go to a different one for an easy cap

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THE WARbert REPORT: MOURKAIN TEMPLE

Mourkain Temple is a Tier 2 Scenario in the Dwarves vs Greenskin Pairing. The game is very simple: get, and hold onto, the Mourkain Artifact for as long as you can. You get points for holding onto the artifact and for killing enemies. The artifact holder gets bonus points for killing while holding it, and there are bonus points if you kill the artifact holder. If the artifact drops it stays on the ground where the person was killed for a short while.

Match typically goes like this: Both sides rush to the artifact. First one to get it rushes back to their own spawn area.

People generally forget that: The first side to get the artifact pretty much always wins. If a scenario queue pops up for Mourkain Temple, enter as fast as you can instead of grinding out a few more mobs. If you come into the game a second after it has started you have put your team at a severe disadvantage.

The “Aw $hit moment”: You don’t get the ball first

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THE WARbert REPORT: PHOENIX GATE

Over the next few days I am going to touch upon the three T2 scenarios and my experiences playing them. The core of the characters on the server I play on seem to be in this level range, so now is a good time to discuss how to win! My main character is a R18 RR14 Engineer, so will share the perspective in that regard. Keep in mind, the observations I have had are from my server only – I am very curious if other people are seeing the same things.

Phoneix Gate is the T2 scenario for the HEvDE pairing. It is your typical capture the flag scenario similar to Warsong Gulch from WoW – to capture the enemy’s flag your flag must not be in the hands of the enemy. The map is a good layout with a lot of space and ways to cross. The scenario also has siege weapons that come into play for both sides adding an interesting extra layer you need to be aware of. The siege weapons have longer range and do more damage than your typical attacks. You get points per player kill and per flag capture. The scenario is first to 500 points and between two competent teams that score is rarely reached – be prepared to be in there for the whole 15 minutes.

Match typically goes like this: Order sends a small team to capture the flag, and leaves the rest on defence. Destruction leaves a small team to defend their flag, and sends the rest on offence.

People generally forget that: ANY damage done stops a person from picking up a flag. DOTs and instant damage abilities are king here. A single person can keep 5 enemies from picking up the flag for a good period of time. Stick a DOT/AOE on and stay alive until reinforcements come. Stop people from picking up the flag at all costs, even if you are going to die. (I love seeing a MDPS about to kill a healer, walk in beside them, take the flag while the enemy is more focused on getting a kill.)

The ‘Aw sh*t’ moment: Your side is so focused on killing what is in front of you that you do not pan to keep your eye on the flag regularly, and someone sneaks in from the side and takes it. ALWAYS pan regularly to guard the flag or at least try to have the flag in your field of vision at all times when on defence.

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Stop The Presses!

Sharpen your pencils and get your stamps ready. It is time to contact your Congress-person, Member of Parliament, or Town Shaman. The greatest video gaming injustice of all time has been committed! We, as gamers with precious little time, cannot stand back and accept this atrocity. Who cares if there are other important things going on in the world, if we don’t stop this now life as we know it is about to end! FIGHT THE POWER!

Puhleeeease. I get a lot of redicule from family, friends, mild acquaintances and even complete strangers for being a gamer. This is the first time I have actually been embarrassed on behalf of the adult gaming community. It is definitely worthwhile to point out the EULA pops up everytime as a typical direction we will be seeing in online gaming, for sure – but the comments from people who have issue with 5 seconds of delay with their 3 hour mountain dew nourished play sessions illustrating this is an outrage of some sort is downright laughable. A straw poll shows ~40% of people who are unhappy with this decision may not buy the game or limit their play time because of this. Good riddance!

MMO companies are getting sued like crazy. Sometimes they are losing. It is going to get a lot worse before it gets better and an obvious argument in court is “I didn’t understand/read it”. Honestly, who really does? The EULA/CoC should require you to hire legal representation to fully understand your rights. I am not kidding. The document is written for courts by lawyers and doesn’t contain much in terms for the layman. In documents such as that, a simple misuse of the word “the” can crumble the legitimacy of it. End users are not supposed to understand it – they are only supposed to sign off on it. Be thankful that you don’t have to check a box at the end of each line. Be thankful that you do not have to hire legal counsel to review it before agreeing to it – because eventually one of these big companies are going to lose a big law suit and then you will have to – or some other drastic, stupid measure. Take the 5 seconds, powerscroll down, click a check box, click accept, and go play.

My favorite complaint amongst the comments is the person who said it was sooo annoying to have to click it again after every crash to desktop, and they may not play anymore because of the annoyance. That is right. They weren’t complaining that the game was crashing to desktop – hey, thats no big deal, its just a game afterall – but they are considering quitting because it takes them an extra 5 seconds to log back in. Think about that for a moment. With all the real issues with our MMO games, the industry, and gaming in general it is really sad that 5 seconds is the big word of the day. Maybe even the week. I think we, as gamers, need more important issues to complain about. Someone bring back Jack Thompson, please?

I was having a picnic with my mom and dad when I was 10. The three of us sat on a blanket in a nice park eating a nice meal and ma and pa popped a bottle of wine. A police officer came by and told them to put it away. Suposedly there is some sort of law that there is no drinking in public. My dad (who is a cop) explained to me then that laws are made for the lowest common denominator of the population. My parents were not hurting anyone by sipping a nice glass of wine, but the three winos at the other end of the park who would drink themselves into oblivion, puke all over the kids playground and crap in their own pants were. That is just an example of why a stupid law has to pass to make it fair for everyone. The EULA is very similar. For most of us, who are not going to hack accounts, farm gold, exploit the game, or sell our accounts the EULA and CoC will never apply to us. However, there is a lowest common denominator in the gaming population. Taking our 5 seconds to agree to that will help curb their impact.

*UPDATE* : A reasonable voice sounds off here along with some moderate, human-like insight. Seems like the CoC checkbox is being removed.

*UPDATE #2* : Remember that lowest common denominator we talked about? In case you were wondering “What Would Matt Do” I have it for you: Miss the point.

I am not mad at Lum the Mad Scott Jennings. I am a fan of his blog and find it is a good place for critical, constructive thought and discussion on gaming and other general issues. My rant above wasn’t aimed at Scott, it was aimed at the 30+ pages of Matt-types freaking out on forums how this is a make break issue and they may not buy it because of it. Because the 5 seconds is so crucial. Yes, as stated below in my comment replies the Mythic EULA definitely needs work – but 5 seconds isn’t a big deal. Anyway, a few key counterpoints to Matt’s miscomprehension

“You have know idea what you are clicking, so shut the fuck…” – Obviously the sarcasm was lost on Matt. Albeit, find me one single person who reads the EULA everytime they have to (whether it be upon install, patch, or every time you launch) and congratulations – you have found a liar. The only reason a person would read the EULA every time is if a) they want to break it, b) general interest for a class/hobbyist, or c) are a lawyer and are looking to write one for their company, or for case law. The point is they purposely design the EULA so the average gamer doesn’t want to read it. They could make it much simpler to read, in layman’s terms so the typical gamer could understand it. They don’t want you to waste your time reading it and THEY just want you to sign off on it.

“No other MMO has to do it for legal reasons…” – This is a new ball game. Surely Mythic learned from their previous game? Perhaps EA has a lawyer or two with a little bit of experience in EULA’s? Really, Matt is suggesting that they aren’t required at all. Hurry up and let them know that so they can save millions in legal costs – and then lose it all when some idiot sues. Bold prediction: Blizzard will change the way their EULA works, as will future companies. The more suits they get against them – and the more they have to sue people, the more the kinks in the EULA become apparent when applied in a court of law. I am sure Mythic is onto something – why would they inconvenience their users for no reason? (hint: they don’t hate you. You buy their games.) Electronic EULA’s are going to evolve with each iteration. They will get worse, and less convenient, with each iteration.

“Be thankful that you do not have to hire legal counsel to review it..” – I even said that was stupid, if you read the next line. That too, dripping in sarcasm, was missed. It was an example of how bad it can get. Clicking each line (will probably happen soon) to the extreme of having to hire a lawyer. It was an extreme illustration. Sigh.

“Remember, friends, it’s all right to call a spade a spade. Even if you’re fanboi. As a matter of fact, it’s perfectly all right to call out dumb features AND to still like the game. Crazy.” – Here I actually agree with him. I didn’t say you couldn’t, anywhere. My point was that when 5 seconds becomes a make or break it point over a game purchase MORESO than the actual game itself then we have lost focus on what is important in gaming. If we are drastically annoyed by 5 seconds out of our lives, then we need to re-evaluate. I agreed with Scott that discussing “why” is important as it is pointing to future, even less friendly, trends we are going to see – but if the 5 second inconvenience is ruining your day so much it is making you angry, then you definitely need a new hobby. NOTE: I did not say mildly annoyed. I said angry. Scott was mildly annoyed. A lot of commenters/board posters were downright furious.

Matt even takes a shot at the name of the site (akin to a ‘yo momma joke) and the irony is definitely not lost – “I has pc” is a spoof name on the board trolling, tinfoil hat wearing, bottom feeding, nerd raging segment his post so aptly represents (see what I did thar? AMIRITE?). Perhaps I should drop a few f-bombs for emphasis. What Matt SHOULD do is approach the issue the way he says he WOULD do at the end of his article.

Am I a Snowflake?

My experiences with my PC and gaming leads me to think I am unique. I don’t seem to have the problems that the “angry” online populace does. Visat 64? Runs like a charm. Never had a single install issue. I don’t understand all the hate. DRM? Never screwed up on my machine. I am very pro-DRM for that reason. After all, since I don’t have a problem then everyone else must be lying. If I go to a restaurant ten times, and get great service and food every time it automatically discounts anyone who hates the restaurant that went once. They are either mucho-whineros or just want a platform to be angry about. That is why I have a hard time believing all the Vista/DRM naysayers as people who are more interested in proving a point than recounting honest experiences. Now, I am not so closed minded as to believe that not only do I have the only perfect running PC in the world but also that my experiences indeed may be a minority and I am just one lucky sonofabitch. It is hard to discount your own experiences to believe in others.

With all that said, how was your Warhammer launch? Mine was as smooth as pie (or cake, if you tend to swing that way) and blognation seems awful slow the last couple days as people are playing the game, instead of commenting on it. My server was down for 2 minutes when I tried to login my first time (at exactly 12:01) – it was the first one on the list and I believe everyone spamming “Login” at 12:01 on the default server caused the boom. They got it right back up and not a hitch the rest of the day. No queue, no downtime, smooth gameplay, tons ‘o fun, all gravy. Some message boards tout this as undoutedly the champion of the history of all MMO launches (which it better be – Mythic had a lot of other launches to learn from!). I had one friend who mysteriously would disconnect every 30 minutes – but that was the only negative thing I heard. So how was YOUR launch experience? Is WAR a snowflake? Are you?

Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk!

I know I am talking a lot about WARHAMMER ONLINE lately. A lot of good! It is launching soon much to my excitement, and heck, it is the talk of the town. I too live in that town so let’s get to more talking. Using Beta/Open Beta as a reference it is hard not to already notice some trends which will detract from the Warhammer experience. These trends have been visible throughout the beta process and while I hope new blood alone will reverse some of them we will have to deal with them after launch. Hopefully they are just fads instead of trends.

Nyuk #1) Gravitation towards Empire vs. Chaos: No pairing is as busy. EvC has the quickest Scenario pops and most open field RVR action. This part doesn’t make sense to me as all 3 pairings are very well done. People know this is always the busiest pairing so that is where they tend to go. Question is why? (Did I just answer that question?)

More ‘Nyuks’ after the break!

Nyuk #2) Lack of Tank class for Empire/Dark Elf: The lack of a tank class for the Empire has shown to be problematic. In Nordenwatch (the EvC scenario) Chaos has a self served holy trinity +1 – Tank, Healer, Melee DPS and Ranged DPS where Empire is missing two of those –  no pure Healer (Warrior Priest is a solid healer, but have to be on the front lines making them easily focus fired and done away with without a true pure healer behind them) and no Tank. This problem is sometimes alleviated by people who realize Nyuk #1 above and you get the odd Sword Master or Iron Breaker in the EvC. When you don’t it is disasterous – especially facing a side able to field a complete group that compliments all roles. In my Nordenwatch scenarios (I have ran well over 50 the past 3 days) I can tell you who is going to win by checking the roster for each side before the match starts. If Order has zero tanks, its over. If Destro has zero Zealots, its over. If both sides have a mix of both it is a damn fun match ahead. (side note – if Order has 10 BW’s it is generally over as well)

Nyuk #3) No cross pairing scenarios: I covered the reasons here in the comments. This initiative alone could alleviate both N1 and N2 combined. Hint: I think this is essential for this game.

Nyuk #4) Destruction Population Imbalance: If things stay true to both numerous online votes and what is actually represented in OB Order looks to be 1.2-1.5 to 1 underdogs. May not seem like a big deal, but dealing with multiple thousands per server those numbers add up. I have heard a lot of arguments how those polls are not representative of the actual player base but polls are done for a reason – an indication. In WoW those same ratios hold true on PVP servers (but not PVE) so it will be interesting how those numbers pass over to RvR. There are a lot of possible reasons for this but honestly I believe the BIG one is how cool those bad guys look. Take James Blunt, put him in a wig and a dress you have the Sword Master. Take Lou Ferrigno, paint him green (if only it had been done before), chip out an extra tooth or two and you have a Black Orc.

We all know where Nyuk comes from. It seems like a stooge move to me to not realize how obvious the first three are and not have them addressed before launch (like, weeks ago). A small beef of mine is how a lot of developers expect the player base to solve thier problems and inefficiencies (see: mods, etc.) I know the Mythic crew expects a lot more people to cross pairings but if it hasn’t materialized significantly this late in the game, why should we expect it to surface at all? The Class cuts, and to a lesser extent the Cities cut will impact this game in less obvious ways than we have seen already. (Cities especially at endgame – wait until you get there to understand. Class cuts moreso immediately, as all 4 Nyuks above are related to the Class cuts to varying degrees.) I still think the quality of the game far outshines these issues but someday we’ll find it, the nyuk-less connection, the lover, the dreamer, and me.

Can you think of anything else that feels Nyuk-ish that makes you worry 3 days from Head Start Launch??

Perception

With the Warhammer:Age of Reckoning Open Beta underway I am curious what the initial impression is from the typical (ie: people without a preconceived fanboy or doomsday view) gamer. As mentioned before, I am looking forward to it’s release. I also have to come clean and share that my perception perhaps isn’t a very fair one. I have been exposed to the game since sometime in Beta 2 (servers currently running 4.1) and as such my perception of the game isn’t from a fresh clean slate – it is from a much different viewpoint.

When you are invited into a beta you expect there to be problems – that is why you are there. Since it is just a beta you tend to roll with the problems and issues and playtest the game realizing that it is going to change an awful lot before it is released. Beta testers are also exposed to the improvement process. From my first beta build to the current point the game has improved immensely and since I experienced that change first hand it gives an optimism of what else is to come (something a new player just hopping into the game for the first time hasn’t experienced). Beta testers also have an in depth knowledge of gameplay mechanics, general knowledge of different class strengths and weaknesses, and a true feel for the game – all things a fresh new player hopping into the experience for the first time doesn’t have. Because of this your typical beta player already has an opinion on the game both in it’s present and future state.

New players have only been exposed to the opinions of those who have beta tested and may have already formed their opinions based on NDA lifted information. So, what I am most curious about today, if you just booted WAR for the first time and have kept an open mind before doing so, what is your perception on the game? More importantly, what did you honestly expect?

With each new MMO released we old crotchety gamers always face disappointment. Yet another Fantasy MMO. Just the same as [insert existing MMO here] with a few extra fluff items, the same old release bugs, yadda yadda yadda. Being critical of the design and release process is important as it should garner improvement with each new release. By now, surely we should be wearing virtual reality goggles and LARP’ing are way (alone in our rooms, of course) through the MMO grind. Every single game genre has improved this way. First Person Shooters have evolved tremendously. RTS games have a completely different mechanic and gameplay than in the old days. No, I am not oozing sarcasm here, honestly. Our forms of entertainment in their most base form, from movies, to music, to gaming genres really haven’t changed one bit – yet we expect some sort of miracle innovation with each new release. Crysis is not really different from the original Doom. Sins of a Solar Empire is not really all that different from Command and Conquer. World of Warcraft is not all that different from Everquest. Of course you can point to graphical improvements and other things that are different but at the core of it all we are playing the exact same games today as we did 10 years ago with a few extra mouse buttons to click and prettier scenery to watch while doing so. Welcome to the entertainment business.

Movies haven’t evolved at their core. At this stage in our entertainment evolution surely the audience should be immersed in a virtual reality setting as part of the movie, not just zombies staring at the screen. The entertainment industry finds what works and rides it as long as they can. Guess what – MMO’s are core entertainment now, not an underground economy of geeks and visionaries and new titles are going to cater to the core audience. Regular folk who have a comfort level with how these games present themselves, how the UI works, what a quest is – these mechanics won’t change unless the core audience changes. Unfortunately that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. We spent so many years hoping to be mainstream so better games would be produced that we could enjoy. Look at where that has taken us.

I think I have lost my bite with new releases now since I pretty much know what to expect and have lowered my expectations of gaming in general – so much so, that as long as the game is fun I may play it. I don’t let myself get disappointed expecting true innovation. On the micro level, I still want to know your thoughts on Warhammer. On the macro level I would love to know your perception of the MMO and entertainment industries as a whole and what you really expect.

Spoilers

I like baseball. I like it for a lot of reasons. My beloved blue jays are 7 games over the .500 hundred mark for the first time in three years and are a very large miracle away from making the postseason. They are, however, playing the great role of spoiler for teams ahead of them in the standings. The past few series, they went 3-2 against Boston, 2-1 against the Yankees, and 3-0 against the Twins – all teams fighting for a playoff spot. While it is great to see the boys finally start playing to their potential it is heartbreaking as a fan to wonder why they didn’t to it about a month ago so instead of being the spoiler, they could be a contender. 5 of their last 7 series in the season are against teams who have a chance at the postseason, so maybe I can take a small victory by having them ruin someone else’s season. With 7 games left against Boston it could be a lot of fun to throw a wrench into Red Sox Nation.

I enjoy sports games and perennially play the EA sports titles. The biggest spoiler for me is 2K sports with their baseball exclusive licensing agreement with the MLB. While I own a console that 2K makes a ball game for I refuse to play it as they don’t make it on the platform I want to play it on – my PC. Since they have spoiled my baseball gaming (MVP 2005 I believe was the last licensed title for the PC) I refuse to purchase any of their titles for my other systems. I am sure they are feeling the heat from my almighty Canadian dollar. While none of this is new news it recently began to bother me again and for once I hope the Evil Axis of gaming does indeed overthrow the 2K Sports team.

Until that happens (or the license expires) I guess I will just have to spend time at real ballparks watching real ballgames, drinking real beer with real friends.

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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