Monthly Archive: February 2017

Changing Gears

Fixing I HAS PC

My web site has been loading like crap after I replaced my broken social blogroll links. I love that feature – it is one of my favorite things about having this blog, the quick, easy view of when my favorite blogs have been updated.  I have disabled it for now, and will start looking for a replacement. WP Social Blogroll was broken with a WP core update, and the RSS Blogroll Updater was crashing the quick loading of my site, plummeting my readers over the past two weeks by 50%. (I am certain that had nothing to do with the compelling content I share here…) So, here I am again, without a working “latest post” blog feeder widget. I will continue to scour the interwebs for one that works and doesn’t slow my site down to 1999 levels.

SWTOR out

I bought 60 days of sub in SWTOR when I realized how much fun I was having playing the game. It cost me $29.99 and had some other goodies, including both expansions and some level help items. Chapters 1-3 of the Jedi Knight story line was great – I really enjoyed it. I did the Interlude chapter (Ilum) and moved on to Chapter 4) (Makeb) and that is when the fatigue hit in. Spoiler free, I have saved the entire galaxy 4 or 5 times already (really, who is counting?) and not only is that exhausting but I can’t imagine doing it again. And again. My main goal was to get to max level and complete all of the story chapters but that was when I was really loving logging in. Once saving the galaxy (yet again) started feeling like a chore, I did the assessment. I am level 67 (of a possible 70). I have nine +25% XP boosters left (which last for 3 hours each), and judging by Google in order of what is left, I have the following:

  • Conflict with the Hutt Cartel
  • The Fall of Czerka
  • The Dread War Ends
  • Forged Alliances
  • Shadow of Revan
  • Rise of The Emperor
  • Knights of the Fallen Empire

Really… another Emperor? Won’t they just stay dead? Anyway – that is a lot of content and I don’t feel like they paced out the story very well. Too much, too big, too soon.  With my being so close to the cap and with so many +xp consumables I can easily walk away and take a break and return later with a lot of content to complete and no rushed timeline to complete it in. It was definitely worth the foray and I know I will go back to finish the adventure in time. I wish they spent more time focusing on fleshing out your team of characters and their relationships, rather than galaxy saving as the primary game mode. Where can you go from there to up the ante?

MASS EFFECT in

Mass Effect is my favorite gaming trilogy of all time. Mass Effect: Andromeda is but a few short weeks away and I am very excited for the title – heck, “pre-order” excited – which is something I don’t do often. Sure, I am not “take off days of work” excited, but to me that is just a bit crazy to begin with. In the spirit of reliving my joy in the game I decided to go back and play the original three. I do not have my copy of Mass Effect 1 anymore, my ME2 is on my bullshit banned EA account, but my ME3 is on my clean EA account. It is a mess. I decided to take a quick look at Origin to see if they had a three pack, or whatnot, for a reasonable price. It was a nice surprise.

First off, paying Origin $4.95 (per month, no month minimum) gets you 10% off any game you buy in Origin. The Mass Effect Andromeda pre-order that I want is $80 – right off the bat I saved money. Mass Effect 2 is free right now (that’s right, free on Origin – you don’t even have to be a paying member!) so go grab it. Arguably one of the best RPGs of all time. You just need a free Origin account.  Click on the digital deluxe version for some more free add-ons, because that is also free if you choose the option.( Did I mention free?) Lucky me as well, that Mass Effect 1 is in the EA Vault right now meaning you can play it for free (ahem) as a paid subscriber.

Things lined up nicely, I got the trilogy back, in one place, for $4.95.

All of my screenshots were corrupted (unfortunately!) something to do with the .bmp based format ME1 uses not storing the .raw data. I will try a better way to capture next play through. For 10 years old, I am quite impressed with how well it is holding up.  I do recall some of my old choices, and I am saddened to already know the outcome AND know that these choices have zero impact on the new installment – but I am enjoying revisiting my old friends and crew mates aboard the Normandy.

If you haven’t played the series, I highly recommend it.

Timely Coincidence

I finished chapters 2 and  3 of the Jedi Knight story arc in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and from what I can tell is the “original” content that launched in 2011. First impressions is that it was very Star Wars-y. No huge surprises but it fit the general tone and theme of what I have come to expect from the Star Wars universe. I have been playing the game completely as it should have been made (single player RPG) and as noted in a previous entry here it took me almost exactly 12 hours to finish Chapter 1 of the galactic saga. Oddly enough, to complete chapters 2 and 3 it took almost exactly an additional 12 hours. My character has played 23 hours, 49 minutes through the single player story line. This includes no side missions but does include the story mode flash points which further expand on the main story line.

Is that a beautiful co-incidence? Semi attractive one? A coincidence having nothing doing  with looks at all?? 12 and 24 hours are just such nice, sensible targets for a developer to strive towards that I find it really interesting wondering if that was on purpose or not. Only time will tell, as I push on to the next series of content. I had to google it to ensure I had the order right but looks like it goes Chapters 1-3, then Ilum, Makeb, Riven, Ziost.

Also, a throwback to last post, I did find my Wampa finally. No awesome cave though, just wandering around the frosty regions of Hoth.

And it was interesting to note, on the next planet, yet another familiar creature from the Star Wars movies used as a roaming mob in game. Clearly they have it easy with so much visual material to pull from. One of these almost ate Anakin on that planet when tied to the pole thing with all those bug people before a bunch of good Jedi show up. My power of recollection is amazing.

The visuals are on point and the gameplay and lightsaber fighting options feels great. The MMO aspects of this game keep getting in the way of making it spectacular but you learn to ignore those. In case you were wondering what those are, in no particular order:

  • Seeing 5 Kira Carsens attached to 5 other Jedis in the same area, is immersive ruining. Hey, she is  a romance interest and *your* companion. No one said anything about cloning. That doesn’t happen until what, Episode 2?
  • Any human being that can take a dozen slashes from a lightsaber is more powerful than the emperor himself.  “Imperial Medic _002” can take that.
  • Running past mobs inside a star ship, in full view, outside of an “aggro” range while alarms go off due to the full attack.  If this was single player there wouldn’t need to be a certain mob density and all mobs could be on high alert. “Oh listen, alarms. Oh look at that non-imperial with a lightsaber cutting down those guys over there. Well, he’s not in our guard area, so let’s just watch…”

A lot of the game feels like “must add this because MMOs have this” instead of “let’s make an awesome Star Wars game and let it stand on its own”. That view of this game is hardly surprising to anyone who has criticized it in the past (or present), but I will continue to argue that it would have been a far bigger success (both commercially and critically) if they went the Mass Effect route with it.

Speaking of Mass Effect, I think I am going to play through the trilogy again once I am done the SWTOR expansions. It was one of the best ever made, if you ignore the ending.

Familiar Territory

Hoth.

I love Hoth. The starting planet of The Empire Strikes Back, Han wielding a lightsaber (to gut a Tauntaun), AT-ATs, Snowspeeders, Probe Droids.. LOVE that (fictional) planet. It was with much enthusiasm that I traveled to Hoth for some missions for my Jedi Knight in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Would they give homage to the films? (of course). Would there be Tauntauns? (yes, and you can buy one as a mount). In fact, they put the Tauntauns and respective vendor right where you get off the shuttle. Clever commercialism.

Why hello, you marvelous meat blanket

Being Canadian and growing up in a rural snow belt I have strong and positive memories of 8′ high snow banks, driving a snowmobile to school, making snow forts and the like. Outside of Star Wars nostalgia I also have a personal affinity for the crisp white snow. Stepping out of the base (during the day of course, I mean, you freeze really fast at night on Hoth) did not disappoint.

the cold, crisp air

The mountains, snow, short and fat AT-AT (ok, stretch there) but there I was, on Hoth. Amazing. I didn’t expect to see any Snowspeeders (it was a different era after all, that tech is WAY in the future) but there was something so familiar, comfortable and exciting about having adventures on this planet if only by knowing what was to come a few thousand years in the future. Seeing how it is in the present timeline versus the desolation in 3600 years was enjoyable from a lore and personal joy perspective.

Would there be any other familiarities? I haven’t found a Wampa yet, but I am early in the story line. I did take a look around on my speeder to see what I could find of of course, Ion cannons! They were an important escape tool in The Empire Strikes Back and nice to see that the Republic used them on this planet way back when as well.

There are few other MMO worlds that can get me excited about an environment like SWTOR.  Do you have any favorite places in your MMO that just gets you feeling all good and excited to visit? Where does that stem from for you?

24.9% More Important

Well, I caught up to my F2P Jedi as a full subscribing Jedi (completing chapter one of the Knight story line) and I shaved 3 hours off of it. That is a decrease of time of 24.9%. This was completely non scientific but most of that time was saved by being able to use quick travel, and having a better land mount to zip past mobs to quest completions. That number is too close to 25% to not assume that the masters of the galaxy decided that a subscriber should have a 25% more efficient time of playing. I know it is anecdotal and such but still, so close to what would seem like a logical conclusion that it is hard not to draw.

Screenshot of my riding my speeder (on my old Jedi, with the non-toggle-able hat unless you pay $10 option).

SWTOR does a good job of immersing you in the Star Wars Universe and the single player campaign is fun. I typically don’t play many games with sound but hard not to do it in SWTOR for the light-saber sounds alone, not to mention familiar riffs in the background as they set the mood as you transition to different story arcs. I am a big fan.

The sudden drop of World of Warcraft was “just because”. I still praise it as the best WoW expansion since Wrath of the Lich King but I was in that rut of nothing really to do but grind out the daily quests in hopes of yet another legendary. My sub dropped at the same time I dipped my toe in SWTOR  and the amazing XP gains are too hard to ignore. I have long waited for the opportunity to zip through the single player stories there.  I will most likely go back to WoW in a future patch (or two) as I want to play out the story campaign there as well as getting that cool new druid form. It looks as though the Token is settling in around the 80k mark for the next little while and I am remiss that I didn’t buy the tokens at 25k (or 60k). I don’t see what sort of other announcement can make the token price jump further (free pizza with a WoW token?) and I am curious if it will drop if/when subscriptions start dropping. With the rate of content being pumped out and planned I know there is plenty to keep most WoW players subscribed.

I’ll be back when the whim hits me. I have the next 60 days to play in a galaxy far, far away

I Would Walk 500 Light Years

Being a big fan of Bioware games in general and also of Star Wars it may come as a surprise that I haven’t played much of SWTOR. When it was sub based only I didn’t have much time to game, so lacked investing in it. When I played the FTP version it was in it’s early and horrendous version – at one point, I couldn’t get an item upgrade from a low level quest unless I was a subscriber. That, and a punishing XP penalty for non subscribers made the game an unfun crawl. You couldn’t even sprint unless you paid. That scared me off. Besides  – the game always would have been better suited as a single player game to begin with.

I just checked and I have 7 old posts under the SWKOTORMMORPG category (the tag was to make fun of MMO acronyms) from 2008 and 2014. I’ll do a quick recap of each to review where my mind was about the game at any specific time (in order) before revisiting my foray into the title over the weekend.

KOTOR – A New Hope (December 2008): This was pre much anything out there about KOTOR and having picked up the Mass Effect Franchise I was cautiously optimistic about how an MMO in the Bioware style would work. The post covered off gameplay elements in ME, and how they may better translate over into MMO land. None of them did, of course.

Pre Marketing Hype Gone Wild (July 2009): One of my favourite short posts here, really. In it I dissected an exclusive interview where the devs basically declined to say anything at all while participating in a 4 page interview which had me questioning why in the heck they would agree to do an interviewin the first place. Bare minimum pre-screen questions, at least – or actually answering something players were interested in is not a bad idea. It was a joke, and a sad state of affairs to how companies hype games.

Lambs to the Slaughter (December 2010): After reading players expectations for the game during a SWTOR QA I realized that player expectations for this title cannot possibly be met as people were hoping for unique experiences and individualism in an “on rails” MMO world.

Star Wars the Old Republic: Hopes and Dreams (September 2010): Two years into the hype cycle I review the things I loved about Mass Effect and Dragon’s Age: Origins and allow myself a brief moment of optimism for the future of SWTOR. Yes, yes, pie in face, laugh at me, whatever you want to do. Hey, they had the building blocks to make something special!

Feast or Famine (July 2011): With the game nearing release but many playing beta I quick hit a note about having less interest in buying the game at release due to reviews from trusted and respected bloggers in BlogNation

Fun Police for Jedi (August 2011): This quote captures my angst in this article:

“… they are releasing a PVP warzone based on a neutral planet where the good guys and the bad guys pause their intergalactic conflict (oh, that silly thing?) to partake in something loosely resembling football set in a fantasy world“.

Yeah. Nothing screams end of the galaxy like copying the NFL.

Against My Better Judgement (October 2013): I tried to get into SWOTOR but the F2P issues were completely rediculous coming from a long stint in League of Legends (who does F2P extremely well)

How to Lose a MMO Gamer in 10 Ways (September 2014) was probably my most commented on article here (at a whopping 25) but I listed the things that make me not care about MMO games and the companies that make them. This wasn’t specific to SWTOR except they were tagged in it, probably because they hit 6 of the 10 items listed at some point in their development cycle.

I ran the emotional gamut on Star Wars: The Old Republic. Hope, to absurdity, to bitter sarcasm, to more hope, to disappointment, to more absurdity, to resignation, to frustration. All of that and I don’t think I put more than 20 hours into the game over that 6 year period. I did do a beta phase and remember playing the Agent story line and getting to mid 20s but I didn’t ever write about that (which is weird for me). I had to triple check that I didn’t mis-tag a post or two.

 

Nevertheless, I decided to give it the old college try. Here are the weekend bullet points as I experienced it over the weekend

  • Zones are gigantic. Need speeder to move around. Non subs get at 20, subs at 10. With 250% xp boost you get a speeder by the second planet which makes it not a gigantic deal, but it would really suck to ahve to walk it all on your own. I do like the zone size (when proper travel options are available) as it really gives a grand scale in game. This inspired the title. I was on autorun most of the time to get around, slowly. Painfully slowly.
  • $10 to toggle helmet off/on. Choice between looking stupid (ranger helmet) or Jedi cool (hood). I chose stupid for the stats, but wish I could toggle for in free, or in game credits, or something. Another basic QoL smashed by bad F2P
  • Weapon stuck at 50% power because weapon quest rewards require an expansion to use. I can’t really die, but I kill really slow. I don’t remember Jedi sucking so bad in the SW universe. Don’t give expansion rewards in base game. SMH.
  • You get 2 quick slot bars. You fill those up by level 30. You have to pay to get anymore. The rumours were true.
  • Jedi Knight story is well done. I am enjoying that aspect.
  • NPCs you help may email you later on. This was well done and a nice surprise. they pace it out from when you actually helped them so you kind of forget about it, until you get the in game mail notification. Nice follow up. I can’t delete the email from my first (ex) girlfriend even though we can’t see each other ever again. Jedi code BS.
  • You could cut game time in half with reasonable travel modes. Giant zones and lack of speed travel stretches this out. Feels like 50%+ is just getting place to place. I have mastered how to avoid mobs to get there faster. Fun mini game. Maybe not that fun, but making the most of it.
  • Quick travel on 26 minute timer. Subscriber it is on a 6 minute timer.
  • How many airports look the same in the world? Why does every spaceport look exactly the same? Missed opportunity to rationalize differences and cool spaceports based on the planets. These could be omitted completely without missing a beat, but would by default increase travel time. SWTOR loves slow travel.
  • Chapter 1 took me 11 hours, 21 minutes as a full F2P player to complete, and I ended up at level 35.
  • I had a fun 11 hours. SWTOR, despite their F2P Fu@kery, deserve some money. I don’t mind paying for my entertainment.
  • Confusing as hell. Buy expansion? Subscribe a month? Buy coins? So many options, no clear path to what makes sense. Research time.
  • Turns out if you buy anything, you get “Preferred” status for life which means you can just sub one month and get F2P benefits for evah!
  • Bought 60 days plus goodies by buying the expansion pack. Good value for the enjoyment.
  • It still should be a single player game. Many MMO things ruin the single player experience. It’s weird, because you can’t group for the story missions, which is 90% of the low level game.

Now that I am subbed, for research, I am going to do the same Chapter 1 story and see how much faster it is as a subscriber. Will be interesting to see the difference! If you ever wanted to experience the single player story lines of this game now is the time, the XP gains mean you far out level the story even just doing the main story line. I know I am missing out on some good content but can always go back and experience side quests when I am done the main one. The game levels you down to make content playable.

New Metrics – WoW Sub Edition

I remember fondly when bloggers and gaming media roasted Turbine for reporting the millions of characters made in gameto show how successful they were doing.

Then Activision reports this gem:

World of Warcraft MAUs for 2016 grew 10% year on year, with fourth quarter MAUs spiking to 20% year on year growth. In terms of hours played, the MMORPG saw figures better than Legion’s launch month, and better than any non-launch month in the franchise’s history.” (courtesy link here, italics are mine.)

In terms of hours played – the new subscription metric! Sorry, made me giggle. Just say how many active subscribers you have by region, will you? I am sure it is a hefty number that will make everyone proud. Especially investors.

That number is going to go down by about 10-15 per week as I am now finally completing story missions in SWTOR since they have upped XP gains by 250% until April 10th – even for free to play accounts. I finished Tython in about 1 hour yesterday. Looking forward to seeing how many class story lines I can complete in the time frame – it’s my dream single player RPG outside of Mass Effect. I like Star Wars. And old Bioware single player games. This XP boost makes the game playable for me as the way it always should have been.

Happy Friday!

Blizzard is a Currency Manipulator

Yay, a faux Donald Trump quote as my title! Finally! Dreams do come true.

Yesterday Blizzard launched their fake in Azeroth money for other fake Blizzard games / item money pyramid scheme and the value of the WoW token exploded. BOOM!

Yes it crashed right back down to earth quite quickly but last night when I checked at 11pm and it was pushing 100k I was disappointed. I have around 250k saved up, and in normal token times that is 4-5 months of subs. To see that evaporate to two and a half months did not make me happy. Things seemed to level down this morning. If you were on top of all the Blizzard news and views and had a ton of 50k tokens saved you literally could have doubled your fake money with Blizzard.

I know real money comes into play at some point (for me, I paid for my first two months with cash and have played “free” ever since) but I still don’t trust the token system. There is no regulation. Blizzard can do whatever they want with it, they can inflate the price, flood the market, etc. etc. They are not real goods that they can ever run out of so I find it hard to believe that every token bought is a token sold by a player. It makes more sense that they are just made digitally by Blizzard on demand to ensure the cash sales can keep flowing.

If I was a market person (I am not) and if I didn’t care about not paying a subscription to play WoW (I do) it could have been a fun moment to take a shot at a big gamble. I bet some players did, and at bare minimum this is a good lesson to pay attention to what Blizzard is doing with their token to gain some personal benefit. I have totally screwed this up – I had enough gold to buy 6 tokens at 30k, before the market jumped and settled in around 60k. Who knows where it will settle in now? If it goes back to 60k I’ll probably unload my gold into tokens to make sure it doesn’t climb again and stay. I keep expecting it to fall to some other level as at some point subs should decline, but I suppose that won’t really happen until content slows down. As it is, with another wing of LFR open this week, there is too much to do and not enough time to do it.

Rescue Time

In my last post I talked about how Tuesdays were a fun day in Azeroth, and made some claims about my play time. Prior to that thought I had already installed “Rescue Time” on my laptop which logs all of your activities while actively using your laptop. I assumed that doing everything I had planned listed would take me around 10 hours a week. I was pretty close!

Yes there is no Sunday or Monday (which is because it wasn’t installed  at the time  and funny to see how big Tuesday is for me in game. The rest of the week it seems I spend between an hour to an hour and a half per day, which would but my weekly time (last week, anyway) at closer to 11.5 hours. I will also run it this week to have a look to see how accurate my guesstimate was.

As for the program that tracks this itself – it is free. It breaks down your productivity and gives you visibility on where you are spending your time while on your device. You can also install it on multiple devices to get your full aggregate. Think you check Instagram just a few minutes a day? This will break it down for you exactly. It doesn’t seem to measure idle time, so a program in the background that is not being worked on / read / used doesn’t count (I tested a few things to see. multiple windows in the background, Excel, Tableau, etc to gauge how it measures.)

They assure your privacy, whatever that means this day! (FBI if you are reading this, this is my gaming computer *mostly*, I promise I do more work on the other one!) Pretty big eye opener on where I spend my time on the computer – a few minutes checking something here and there adds up. It even tracks how much time you spend on websites. Outside of my post on Monday, I only spent 16 minutes 44 seconds on my own site the rest of the week. Mostly because I use it as a launching pad on my blog-roll updater to read my favourite posters when they write something new.

Oh, and not because it would affect you, but because you are probably just curious, for you know, your cousin or something…. by default it does not track anything on adult websites. Again, so I hear… I don’t even know what those are anyway. It was mentioned in some sort of pop-up window/option.  Figured you might want to know.