A Fond Farewell

Posted July 20, 2011 by amuntoth
Categories: Uncategorized

Yes it’s true, I am officially closing this blog down. It’s been around for over a year now and it’s gone from very active to no activity as my free time and interest fluctuated. This blog was never meant to be anything more than a place to ramble on and rant about things I don’t fully understand, and I’ve realized that I don’t need to publish those inane ramblings to the internet. In fact, I doubt my reader numbers will change at all with the switch to just ranting to my wife about my video game gripes.

To anyone who finds this blog years from now, understand that I have never known what the hell I was talking about. These are all uninformed, ignorant but therapeutic ramblings. I don’t consider myself an expert, or more than mildly informed on any topic really, but especially the video games industry. To those few of you who have followed me, I’m still on twitter @amuntoth. To those who have commented over the years, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Those comments, positive and negative (by FAR mostly negative, ahh the internet) have been a boon to my life. Feedback on my work, whether I put time into that work or not, is always welcome and truly appreciated.

Again, thank you all and to those of you that I have interacted with on this blog, say hi on Twitter every now and then :)

 

Amuntoth/Billy

 

Thoughts On WoW Complaints

Posted June 21, 2011 by amuntoth
Categories: Ranting, World of Warcraft

Tags: , , , , , ,

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Haters gonna hate

I just wanted to talk a bit about some of the complaints that people level against WoW. I’m not currently playing the game, and I understand that most of the hate is just from burnout and not from actual dislike of the game, but it bugs me when people bash one of the greatest MMOs ever made in order to justify the fact that they’ve just grown tired of it after FIVE years or more.

It’s all about the loot!

First off I just want to say, yes it is. World of Warcraft is all about the loot, it’s the reason most gamers continue to play even though they have no social ties to the community. It’s the reason most players do dungeons, and it’s the reason most raiders raid. Sure, there are those who raid merely for the companionship but they are merely finding their own way to enjoy the content provided, not the reason provided by the developer.

So why do I think this argument is asinine if I am willing to admit that it’s true? Simply because it is stupid to assume that World of Warcraft would be anything BUT a loot based game. Are there MMOs out there that are not focused on loot? Yes. Are there MMOs out there that do not make gear obsolete as you get the next piece? Yes. But you don’t pick up a Tim Burton film expecting bright and cheerful environments and happy fun time feelings. On the same token you don’t pick up a Blizzard RPG, the makers of Diablo, a game whose sole draw was obtaining tons and tons of new loot, expecting a game with very little focus on gear. It’s just people liking MOST of the game, and wishing parts of it were different. That’s fine, but you can’t fault World of Warcraft for your unrealistic expectations.

You level too quickly. You can’t experience the content at the appropriate level.

This is one of those arguments I can almost agree with. Leveling in WoW post Cataclysm is so fast you can shoot through several zones without even noticing, especially if you que for Battlegrounds or Dungeons while running around questing. I can understand people being upset that, sure they can go back and do those quests but it’s going to be trivial and they aren’t going to enjoy the questing as much as they would.

So why do I think this argument is flawed? It’s simple really: You can turn off XP gain in World of Warcraft. There aren’t many MMOs I’ve played that give you the option of turning off XP gain, but WoW did it. Sure it was for another reason, namely PVPing and Twinking, but it’s there. The only problem with this is that you won’t be able to que for Battlegrounds while XP capped. Well, you can que, but you probably won’t be getting any pops as you’ll be que’d only against others with their XP turned off. Still, if you feel like you are nearing the end of a zones level range you can take a quick trip to Orgrimmar, cap your XP, then head back out and finish up the zone before restarting that XP bar and continuing on. Just because you are too lazy to utilize the options given to you doesn’t mean you should fault the game.

It’s a roller coaster, I can’t go anywhere and do anything like I can in games like DarkFall or Ultima Online. It feels like they’re holding my hand the entire time!

This is the worst argument I have ever heard against World of Warcraft. The belief is that, just because there ARE quests and quest paths through zones that you MUST obey them, or be subject to some unknown, but obviously horrific punishment. World of Warcraft in no way restricts your movement through MOST of the world, it is just as open and open ended as many games people usually reference here as being better.

How can I say that when the quests guide you through the easiest paths? Because nothing is making you follow the quests. In Ultima Online I can create a character and immediately go to almost anywhere in the game. I can do the exact same thing in WoW. I can already hear the arguments: “But in WoW there are levels that restrict you. Sure you could GO to Blasted Lands at level 1, but you’ll die almost instantly.” My counter? The same is true of Ultima Online, it’s just not as obvious. Can I go anywhere? Yes. Will I survive for more than a second against a mob that has far higher combat skills than me? No. Just because it’s not a level doesn’t mean it’s not a barrier to content. Same with the questing. Just because quests are in the game, doesn’t mean you have to do them. Go off the beaten path, explore and kill whatever you feel like killing on your way to the level cap. Feel the game is too easy? Try fighting mobs two or three levels higher than yourself and see how easy the game is.

The community is terribad!

I can’t deny this one at all. I can suggest that you find a more friendly guild, a group of players that’s in it for fun and friendship and not the ‘Epics’. They’re out there, but you need to actively look to find them. Sure you’re still going to have to deal with the rest of the WoW population, but I find getting into a good guild and then turning off trade and general chat goes a long way toward making me feel like I belong.

World of Warcraft has ruined MMOs. All MMOs coming out are trying to be like WoW and they suck because of it.

This is one of the dumbest arguments I have ever heard, and even the smallest amount of research or knowledge completely negates it. World of Warcraft was based off of the, at the time, most successful MMOs out there: Asheron’s Call and EverQuest. From the zone breakdown to the controls to the gear to the combat. Blizzard just made a streamlined, polished version, exactly as Trion World’s recently did with Rift. Due to it’s ties with Warcraft, it’s cartoony graphics, and it’s ease of play WoW gained a lot of players, more than any other MMO at the time. Then something happened, a force of nature that no one could predict or manufacture saw WoW gain Millions of subscribers. No one can really say why, it’s just one of those things. So what’s killing MMOs? Everquest actually.

At the time Everquest launched there was really only one other combatant: Ultima Online. In EQ you had everything we see in MMOs today: Obvious zone progression, large raids, massive grind and a leveling time that prevented any new players from even seeing their friends for years, if they ever made it. Over in UO we had a massive open world where, even as a total newb like my current character is, I can travel with my guild for all the end game raids and actually provide SOME help. UO had an amazing crafting system unlike anything I’ve seen yet, with dozens of crafting professions at launch and even more now. You can sculpt marble and stone to make decorations, or make furniture for your house, or kegs to store alchemy potions, or a thousand other things, and you could just decide one day that you want to do something different, and start working on lowering your swords and raising your magic skill with that very same character. Sadly the industry followed EverQuest, not due to it’s gameplay features, but due to it’s pretty 3D graphics. Ultima Online and games like it were left behind because your average gamer prefers graphics over substance, and that will never change.

I do however have one major complaint of my own.

WoW has been out for over five years now, it’s seen three expansions, and it has received almost nothing new. Sure, new zones and gear, but for a game that’s been out as long as it has to blatantly ignore the cries of it’s players is just sad. The following is a list of things that really should have been in the game by now:

Player Housing

Appearance Slots

More Classes

Dynamic Events

Useful crafting (Not only for end game but for leveling/decorating/fun)

New Player Skins (Seriously, after seeing the Goblins I can’t even look at the older races. They’re fugly at this point, while everything else has been improved.)

New Player Models (Not necessary with new skins, but good God the WoW characters are fugly now. Make it like EQII where you only see them if you check a box in the options, for the older computers out there).

More Secondary Professions (such as gardening, or raising your non-combat pets so they get bigger, maybe breeding mini-games for mounts or something).

Probably a lot more I haven’t thought of, or can’t think of off the top of my head now.

Sundemo

Posted June 19, 2011 by amuntoth
Categories: Demo, Dungeon Siege, Review

Tags: , , , ,

Welcome to this weeks Sunday Demo. I know it’s been a while, but let’s get on with it. So what’s this weeks game? Dungeon Siege III, demo available now on Steam or Xbox360. Let’s get down to it.

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I played this demo on both the 360 and my PC. I’ll be covering it mostly from the PC perspective, as that’s really the one I care about. The first thing you’ll notice about Dungeon Siege III, without even starting a new game, is that it was designed around the consoles, with the PC being a port. The next thing you’ll notice is the graphics, which are far and above any other Diablo style Action RPG game out now. Of course they’ve decided to make the game very dark, visually. My guess is that they made the game this dark to appease those people who complained that Diablo was too bright, but they might have overdone it a little. Often I couldn’t tell what was going on, and adjusting the gamma just made everything look washed out. Still, I am truly impressed by the visuals on Dungeon Siege III.

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The next thing you’ll probably notice is that it controls like a retarded cripple elephant. I understand wanting your game to be unique, but taking everything good about action RPG controls and throwing them out the window is not the way to do that. The WASD controls will move your character and swivel the camera, but pressing right goes left sometimes and right others, depending on if you are pressing up or down at the time. It’s downright confusing and stupid, so you’ll most likely use the mouse to move around Diablo style. Of course, that’s if you can get past the fact that you won’t use the mouse buttons for anything but combat and movement. What does that mean? Well if you see some armor on the ground you’d like to have, you’ll have to walk near it and press E, not left mouse button. Things only get more confusing from there.

You press F, not C, to look at your character, I isn’t used for inventory, and you don’t aim at what your cursor is targeting. Instead the game chooses what enemy you are aiming at, based on what direction you last walked in. That means, if you want to run away a bit while firing, you’ll only be able to fire in the direction you are running. This get’s VERY frustrating when you’re surrounded by enemies and trying to pick off that ranged caster that’s destroying you. Instead the game will auto lock on anything in between the two of you, and you’ll have no choice but to kill that target first, or run over to the caster.

Combat is another interesting change from the traditional Diablo style games. You’ll fight small waves of enemies, usually four or five at a time, and until you get another squad mate you’ll be dying often, at least until you figure out the clunky, stupid controls. On the console they work fine, but for a PC game it should be a crime. The combat gets pretty intense, and it forces you to switch between AOE stances and single target stance, as well as a defensive stance used to heal yourself or gain buffs. I really enjoyed the combat, when the controls weren’t interfering, but it was pretty difficult in the early going. Once I got access to a companion though it became much more manageable.

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Overall the game was pretty fun, if a bastard of a PC port. The biggest complain I found, other than the terrible controls and UI, was the map system. You get a small minimap which you can make SLIGHTLY bigger, and that’s it. Have a quest and no idea where to go? Go F yourself, cause you’ll be wondering around with absolutely no idea where you’re going. The only thing that saves this from being the HORRID problem is that the game seemed pretty linear, at least from the demo, so it’s a little more difficult to get lost. I’ll pick it up, but I’ll probably wait for a Steam sale.

Miscellaneous

Posted June 9, 2011 by amuntoth
Categories: Dragon Age, Oddworld, Stranger's Wrath

Tags: , , , , , , ,

First off I’d like to say that ‘Of Blood And Bone: Episode 2: Forsaken’ has arrived! Check that out and let me know what you think.

Second I’d like to talk a little bit about the games I’ve beaten in the last week or so. My internet decided to die on me for nearly a week, which was frustrating to say the least, so I had a chance to finish up a few single player games that I’ve been meaning to get around to. Let’s start out with…

Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath

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I bought this game originally for the Xbox, but I never got around to beating it. That’s not because it wasn’t a fun game, more a combination of my own inability to stick with a game for the long haul, and the fact that my save gave corrupted after a many hour session one night. So what is this game and what makes it so interesting?

First of all the setting is completely unique. You play as the Stranger, an odd dog like, bipedal character. The world is filled with odd creatures, mostly chicken people, frog people and some weird troll looking things. Even your ammo is weird. Stranger uses a crossbow set up to shoot creatures you find around the landscape. Each creature has a unique effect, and most of them are not your standard shooter stuff.

Stranger is a bounty hunter first and foremost, so you’ll want to take you enemies, even the bosses, alive if you can. You’ll just get more money that way. To that effect you have several weapons designed for live capture. The first, and most important type of ammo, is an electric beetle of sorts. It can fire like a really weak sub machine gun, or it can charge up to fire a larger electric shock that will put most enemies down for a few seconds, allowing you to bounty them up. You’ll also receive spider ammo that, as you might have guessed, wraps the enemy in webs. From there the weapons get more exotic, from squirrels that talk trash, luring enemies toward them for traps, to skunks that cause all enemies in the local area to vomit.

You’ll get very few snippets of story throughout the game, at least until you near the ending, but what is there is just enough to drag you into this world and get your mind racing, trying to figure out what exactly is going on. There is a strong ‘Cowboys vs. Indians’ feel going on toward the later half of the game, where you’ll realize that Stranger is a native, fighting the oppressive invaders by using the land, and it’s creatures. Meanwhile the invaders are using black powder weapons and working to slaughter the indigenous population. I didn’t enjoy this aspect of the game, and it really felt layered on thick by the end.

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The game gets downright beautiful at times.

All in all the game was a fun, with a truly unique setting that I really wish was still in games. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone that hadn’t played and enjoyed the original however, as at $9.99 it’s an expensive older game. For anyone looking for an old school, no-cover shooter with an interesting twist, if you don’t mind older graphics, you might want to check out a few videos and decide for yourself.

The second game I beat this week is Dragon Age II. I know I know, a big game like DAII and I hadn’t beaten it yet? Truth be told I hadn’t gotten even to the deep roads until this week. It just never grabbed me like the original, at least not at first. I don’t agree with most of the reviews, that the game is a far cry from the glory of DAO, but I do think that the game isn’t quite as good. Why?

The story of Dragon Age Origins was epic. You played as one of the last few Grey Wardens in Ferelden, most of your order having died, and you had to not only stop the Blight, but also stabilize the kingdom and unite all the races, at least for the battle against the Blight. The story in Dragon Age II is about a refugee who is trying to become rich. You do some good things as you go, and some terrible things, but all the while your pretty much just out for yourself and your family. Not only that, but the game also has around fifteen endings, much like the last Lord of the Rings movie, before it finally does end.

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DAII can be beautiful, if your rig can handle it well.

I will say that your companions are much better than the companions in Origins. Sure, there was no Alistair or Morrigan, but I thought Fenris, Varric, and especially Merrill (OMG so freakin cute) were the best Bioware companions yet. By the end I wanted to stab nearly all of them in the chest for their doing just blatantly stupid stuff, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t really enjoyable for most of the game.

I love the style they’ve added into the Dragon Age world as well. The Qunari are much more impressive now than they were in Origins, and the elves look almost alien with their noses, eyes and body shape. It really does a lot to add to the world of Dragon Age and make it more unique. Sadly you don’t see much of the world in this game. In fact, other than two or three locations outside the city, you are pretty much stuck questing inside the city in repetative corridors that’ll remind you more of recent Final Fantasy games than a more western RPG.

The combat is an interesting mix. They’ve made the spells and abilities you and your companions can get much more interesting than in the first game. Sadly the combat itself feels a little rushed, and by the end of the game you won’t be getting anything from fighting other than XP, and you’ll be in fight after fight just walking down the street. It reminds me of the horrible random encounters of yesteryear.

Still, all of this was made worth it at the end of the game. The big twist there had me jumping in my seat and shouting in excitement, and then suddenly subdued and not sure what action to take afterward. It left me thinking about what I had done, and what I could condone. I wasn’t expecting that, and I think overall it bumped the game up from a solid B, to a B+.

Paying for Advantages–Re: Tobold

Posted May 30, 2011 by amuntoth
Categories: Ranting

Tags: , , ,

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This is going to be a response to Tobold’s article “MMORPGs are too cheap”.

Tobold claims, as the title suggests, that MMO’s aren’t charging as much as they should be. His defense of this stance is that the ‘average American’ spends around $58 per month on hobbies, and that MMOs only charge about $15, maybe $40 if there was an expansion that month. He then goes on to say that people respond negatively even to the very idea of paying more, such as in a cash shop where the player can purchase items.

If you’ve been following Tobold for a while you’ll see that recently he’s been battling for the acceptance of paying for advantages in game. He says that it’s not that big a deal, and that it’s youthful naivete that prevents us opponents of the idea from accepting what is obviously right. He believes his age has brought with it the wisdom to know that it’s alright to charge more for MMOs, and to sell items that give you an advantage inside.

He also likens MMOs to stamp collecting, and says that no stamp collector would be angry if another guy spent more money, and thus had a better stamp collection, so why should we care if someone spends more and has a better MMO experience. He then says, and I quote: “The whole argument against people spending money on MMORPGs has a whiff of communism. Everybody should be equal, and nobody should be allowed to stand out through money, even if he worked hard to get that money.”

BULLSHIT. First of all, anyone NOT currently living in the cold war would understand that if it worked out perfectly, Communism is an amazing way to run a country. The problem with Communism is that it NEVER works out perfectly, because people are greedy and evil. Knowing that, Communism is a stupid idea because it just can’t happen right. That said, of course people who have worked for more money should be able to spend it and have an advantage, however, all of that should be IN GAME. What you did outside of the game makes no difference, you want money and power inside the game world? Work for it like everyone else. Excel and become ‘the man’ if you can, but you don’t get to cut in front of the line because you have more real life money.

Why not? Because let’s not forget what an MMORPG is. It’s a virtual WORLD. One that humans created and one that has the ability to be far more fair than the real world. Why would we allow, if we can help it, the corruption and evil that infests our normal lives to seep into the one escape we have? That’s not how it works, because YOU are not YOUR CHARACTER. If you enter this world, and shoot past everyone else in skill or luck and become massively wealthy, you should be able to use that to gain status or power in the game, but you shouldn’t be declared Governor of California because you have a level 85 Shaman with more gold than the entirety of the rest of the server. Just the same the Governor of California shouldn’t be able to start playing my game tomorrow, and start bitch slapping me that very same day, even though I’ve put in time and effort. That’s got a very totalitarian feel to it if you ask me.

The only people who say that ‘money can’t make you happy’ or ‘MMORPGs cost too little’ are the people that HAVE the money to spend. I’m a struggling college student with a wife and debt. I’m LUCKY that I can afford to pay for a $15 sub a month for both me and my wife. Most of my computer equipment comes from my time in the Navy too, so it’s not like I’m spending much on my hobby. In fact, according to receipts, I spend about $40 a month on hobbies. That includes two subscription fees, one for me and one for my wife, and $10 for whatever comes up. So no Tobold, MMORPGs don’t cost too little, and if you REALLY want to just ‘waste’ your money as you claim in your blog, then I’ll send you my address and you can start just sending me the extra you’ve got.

Until then, try not to ruin my hobby just because you no longer want to put in the work.

New Stories Day!

Posted May 29, 2011 by amuntoth
Categories: manifest tale

Tags: , , , , , ,

In case you aren’t following my other blog, Manifest Tale, there have been several new episodes added since I lasted posted about it. Give it a look here: http://manifesttale.wordpress.com/

Let me know what you think. It’s been a blast writing these, and they’re actually harder than just writing a story. I have to take the screenshots I have and turn it into a coherent story that isn’t “I killed a llama” 100 times in a row.

There are now 4 episodes of ‘Wild’ Erp and 1 episode  for Of Blood and Bone.

Return of the Ultimate

Posted May 28, 2011 by amuntoth
Categories: MMO, Ultima Online

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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It’s been years since I’ve really gotten into Ultima Online, but this past week has seen me playing UO more than any of my other games. Why? Even after all these years it’s still the most unique, amazing MMO I’ve ever played. So what’s so good about this game that most MMO players have never even tried? Well, I’ll be playing for a while it seems, so I’ll keep you all in the loop.

The first thing you’ll notice, almost instantly, is the amazing community in Ultima Online. From the time I stepped out of the tutorial section, which lasted all of five minutes but covered the basics, I had people passing me and waving, or stopping to ask if I needed anything. A few even just stopped to chat for a bit. This really shook me at first, and I had to retrain myself to not find it strange to talk to strangers again.

After about twenty minutes of exploring the small town that they start you in, a town completely overrun by the undead, I made my way to New Haven, the only real city on the starter island. Within a few minutes I was wrapped up in a conversation at the bank about whether I wanted to play the game without any starter help, or whether I’d like a few items and a little bit of money. I took the items to help me not die, and the money to insure my items. Insuring is something that wasn’t always in UO, but you basically pay a certain amount of gold to insure an item, more gold for better items, and when you die all your insured items will stay with you. This would be prohibitively expensive for a noob to do to all his gear, but having a weapon and armor when you’re trying to get back to where your body is really helps.

Speaking of death, I’ve always been a huge fan of Ultima Online’s death system. When you die your ghost starts standing over your body. Unlike WoW, you don’t start at a graveyard and make your way back. As a ghost most people won’t be able to see or talk to you, unless they have a high spirit speak skill, so your goal is to find either a wandering healer NPC, a player that can see and res you, or head back to a city and find the main healer shoppe, where they will res you. Then it’s your job to get back to your body before it decomposes or someone takes your stuff.

Anyway, I was invited to join a pretty active guild on my first day, and they took me to their Guild Hall in order to have a small ceremony where they informed me of the guild policies and what was and was not expected of me. After that I was informed that the guild does a Hunt every night practically, and noobs were welcome to come along. We met up at 6pm pacific at the Guild Hall for a quick rundown of the night’s Hunt and what we were planning on doing.

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We took a portal one of our mages made to the ice caverns where we were to fight the White Wyrm and the Ice Fiends that patrolled near it. The cave was really amazing, the fog rolling through made it feel cold and obstructed our view, making it seem like people and monsters were winking in and out of existence.

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The UI of UO generally stays in the black area. It seems weird at first, but it allows you to see the game world unobstructed. Aside from the health bars up there, which are movable, and have small buttons on them that I can click to heal or purge my party members.

We made our way through the ice caverns and killed the dragon, and I only died twice. After a harrowing search by everyone for my corpse, which turned out to be underneath an ice elemental, I got my gear re-equipped and we decided to take on the rat people that were in a cave connected to the ice caverns. The first thing I noticed was that each of the rat people had a name. Not like “Rat Enforcer” like most MMOs, but a unique name for everyone of them.

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The rat fort was pretty cool. A massive wooden fort with high gates and wooden pole walls in a huge cavern deep underground. Of course they swarmed us like rats, but our mages and dragon tamers easily took care of the whole lot. After that we had to call it a night, and everyone finished looting and took the portal back to the guild hall. There all the money was given to the hunt leader, who took it to the bank and had checks written to split the gold between the four of us noobs who needed the money. They gave me my check, which I took running to the bank, and I now had 50,000 gold. It’s not much in Ultima Online, but it’ll let me keep my equipment insured.

All in all it was the best experience I’ve had in an MMO in nearly ten years. The people were all great, and even days later I mentioned not being sure if I was ready to leave the noob island of New Haven, and a guild member voluntarily came down and hung out with me for over an hour, just chatting and watching me kill things as he got a sense for whether I was ready, both character skill and player skill wise. Then we just chatted for a bit, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had done that in an MMO.

Ultima is back baby, and I’ll keep you posted on my adventures.


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