Archive for October 2010

Kotaku: PC is Shit Week.

October 28, 2010

Warning: This is a pretty heavy rant with some foul language at the end. If this offends you please stop reading this post. Come back later though, there will be punch and pie.

This week is Kotaku‘s so called “PC Week”. A celebration of PC gaming, since most of the industry, and Kotaku, is focused on consoles 95% of the time. The idea is great, but the execution is more of an insult than anything.

The first question I need to ask is: Why have PC Week be THIS week? What PC games are announced that aren’t announced for consoles? What PC centric events are going on? Was it just an arbitrary week?

I consider myself a huge PC gamer. I have a 360, and at one point had a Wii, and while those consoles have some GREAT games, I just found that even if I bought them, I ended up just going back to my PC games and ignoring the console. Maybe that is because I am always on my PC, so turning on a game is very easy, as oppossed to getting up, going to the TV, turning on the 360, finding the game, starting it. Not that this is hard, just not as easy as PC games for me.

So what is my problem with Kotaku’s PC Week? Well, starting from Monday the 25th of October, the start of PC Week as near as I can tell, let’s see what some of the features have been.

Microsoft: We Are Doubling Down on PC Games.
Thank goodness they are announcing this for the fourth year in a row. Last time they tried they came out with Games for Windows Live, and we all know how beloved that is. Not to mention this time they are just making GFWL store “better”.  But they are still allowing companies to add their own DRM, so unlike Steam, I also get to not play my games after I buy them with GFWL. According to Kotaku “they will also be tapping into the massive community they’ve built with the Xbox 360.” I think we can assume that this just means I’ll be able to send messages back and forth between 360 and PC, and maybe stream Netflix on my PC, in case I don’t want to just go to the website or something…

Digital Storm’s New High-End Gaming PCs Light Up BlizzCon.
Case mods. Fine, whatever, they usually show case mods after big events anyway.

Asimov’s First Law Of PC Ads: Have Awesome Sideburns.
A picture from an old Radio Shack add…quality journalism here.

The Computer Nintendo Never Released.
Gotta love including a Nintendo story as a PC Week story. This is more of a peripheral/design story than a PC story.

The Future of PC Gaming, According To The Creator Of FarmVille.
The future of PC gaming as seen through the eyes of a man who has never made or been associated with a PC GAME. Sweet, exactly what non-PC players need to think of when they think of PC gaming. He does make one valid point though: “Finally, I think we’re going to start seeing the initial inklings of adaptive game experiences. Games are getting smart — and eventually systems, along with the management software, will monitor a player’s progress and adapt game play difficulty, mechanics and experience accordingly.” Good for you, now go back to making your apps.

The Most Awesome PC Box Art In The World.
Literally just pictures of OLD PC game box art. Thrilling and relevant.

The Many, Many Deaths Of PC Gaming.
A nice little video showing how PC gaming is either dying, or dying slowly. I know it’s meant to show how people keep saying it, and it’s still around, but honestly nothing in the actual video said that to me.

I’ve Always Wanted To Slam Dunk A Baby.
Yes, show the game where you can slam dunk a baby into a basketball net and watch it explode. Way to show how great PC gaming is.

The World’s Greatest World Of Warcraft Fan.
To the kid in this video, I love you man. You’re the massive dork inside all of us gamers. But is this really what you want to put out for your PC Week? Might as well call all PC Gamers unwashed, pimpled dorks.

Microsoft’s Computer Gave Birth To Japanese Gaming Legends.
A story about, for all intents and purposes, Microsofts first attempt at a CONSOLE. Sure it could do more, but look at the thing. If the PS3 can have linux and be a console, this thing is a console.

The Future of PC Gaming, According To The Lead Creator Of BioShock.
Seriously good stuff here, and the only thing I’ve seen on Kotaku’s PC Week that gave me hope for the PC market.

When An MMO Dies.
While an enjoyable article, it really is depressing reading about all these failed MMOs.

The Story Of The Biggest Computer Game Of All Time.
A FUCKING STORY ABOUT SOLITAIRE! SERIOUSLY? WTF? Who gives a shit? This is not ‘PC Gaming’, this is fucking SOLITAIRE! It was a card game in the real world, and it was translated with shitty graphics to the PC, that’s IT. WTF?

That is pretty much it for PC Week so far, except for all of the non-PC usual stuff that involves consoles. Am I being too hard on them? Fuck no. If they want to include more PC stuff on Kotaku, great. But to call it PC Week and then shit on it and post detritus like this the entire week? I like Kotaku, but damn this is fail.

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Champions Online Free to Play!

October 26, 2010

I woke up this morning to some of the best news I’ve heard in a while.

ChampionsOnlineF2P

That is from an email stating that in Q1, 2011 Champions Online will have a free-to-play option. I have wanted this since I played it for a free month thanks to BlueKae. This game is very fun, but it always seemed too shallow for me to pay a subscription fee, especially compared to all of the other pay to play MMOs out there, including their own Star Trek Online (I still need to try those episode dealies).

Now from this little email I can’t tell whether they will make a good implementation of F2P gaming, but I do have a theory. Based on the wording, note that Champions Online is not “going free to play” but is instead gaining “a free to play option”. My guess is that it will be implemented more along the lines of Evequest II Extended. You’ll have a free server, and very limited character customization options, which you can pay for. No travel powers unless you pay a one time fee, etc.

However this turns out, I am at current VERY excited about this news. If it’s done even half decently I will have gained a new F2P game to mess around with, for which I have gained a new found enjoyment. I’m currently playing LOTRO, Runes of Magic, DDO and Vindictus. I have EverQuest II Extended on my hard drive, but I only want to play as the Ratonga and I haven’t bought them yet.

Edit: I found an FAQ for Champions Online F2P thanks to Tobold, and most of my predictions are wrong. Take special note of this.

World of Warcraft Patch 4.0.1: Polish Remover

October 24, 2010

No matter what you think of World of Warcraft it is hard to deny that it is possibly the MOST polished MMO on the market for over 5 years. Sure there have always been bugs in WoW, but if you sit down and play for 5 hours you may run into one, MAYBE two small bugs. This lack of bugs has been one of the driving reasons for not just World of Warcrafts success, but also Blizzard’s. 

Enter patch 4.0.1. From the moment I installed it the glitches have been everywhere. From the retardedly annoying “permanently swimming” bug that makes my character swim through the air if he drops off his mount before hitting the ground, to the game/event crashing bug where when you mouse cursor over the Headless Horseman’s pumpkin in the SM Graveyard. Until we realized it didn’t effect my wife and she was made the designated head clicker, we were spending 20 minutes of crashing and reloading, me and everyone else in the group, before it let us fight him.

landswimming

It’s not just that either, there seem to be glitches and bugs all over since the patch. Another fun one is the “you are not in a guild” message me and my  guildies receive. Mobs evading and resetting randomly more than usual, and Icecrown being in MORE buggy that it always was. There was a point where I had to walk backwards in Icecrown for an entire day of questing, because if I faced forward everything went black and the game went to 1 fps. Guildies have been talking about many of these problems more and more, and sure, for someone who has played WoW for five years or so, these are just annoying, not game breaking (except the Icecrown problems maybe), but for any new players looking to start will they see what used to be the most polished MMO on the market? Or will these bugs make it feel like they are playing a game that has never been beta tested?

CheetaRidingBat

Sure, maybe I am being a bit hard on Blizzard, as this was a huge patch. But with Cataclysm around the corner, and how much THAT is going to change the game, it really makes me wonder if that huge “patch” is going to be as thoroughly tested as 4.o.1. Let’s hope this patch was as buggy as it is simply because they are putting so much into Cataclysm.

National Novel Writing Month

October 23, 2010

il_fullxfull.95357632

She wishes her legs looked as good as mine.

I’ve done it. I registered to be an official entrant in NaNoWriMo this year. It’ll be my first time, so I’m not sure how hard/fun it will be, but I plan on making it to 50,000 words. My wife has been trying to get me to finish writing ANYTHING for years now, so this is a good way to fulfill a promise to her, AND to prove to myself that I can complete a story, good or not.

I already know the basics of the story I’m going to write, as it’s been kicking around in my head for a while now. Wish me luck everyone, and if you wish to visit my NaNoWriMo page you now can, and if you just wish to shake your head and ignore that I am doing this then you can do that as well.

Disassembled: A Review In Pieces–Runes of Magic

October 21, 2010

It’s been a long time since I’ve done an MMO Review in Pieces. If you weren’t around back in March when I last did one, the idea of Disassembled is that I take an MMO, in this case Runes of Magic, and I review it 5 or 10 levels at a time.

This one is going to be kind of unique in that I am going to review levels 1-10, and then levels 1-10 AGAIN and then twice more! You can thank the dual class system in Runes of Magic, as well as the Elven starting area, for this. Without further ado, the review:

RoMTin

Tin Ore? Looks more like Hellfire Ore…

Let’s start with the character creation, the first real thing anyone see’s in an MMO.  There is a decent variety of options, including size sliders for everything from your head to your feet. The hair and faces range the gamit from somewhat realistic looking to anime style. The number of hair and face options is impressive, especially when compared to a game like World of Warcraft. Sadly picking a face also chooses the facial hair. I would have preferred this be a separate option as some of the facial hair is really good looking, if it wasn’t attached to the rest of the face. The Elves in general are more anime looking, especially their wild hairstyles.

CharacterCreation

There are eight classes in Runes of Magic, 4 available to both races. Each race gets two unique classes. For the Humans that means the Priest and Knight class. The Elves get Warden and Druid. The four classes available to all are the Warrior, Scout, Rogue and Mage. The classes all control a bit differently, having your typical melee dps, ranged dps, tanks and healers. Luckily, at least low level, every class is capable of putting out enough damage to solo efficiently.

Once you get past the character creation you’ll be transported to one of two starting zones, depending on which race you chose. The human zone is a nice forested area that reminded me of Elwynn Forest at first. The elves are on their own island, specifically in the Valley of Preparation. Within the first second or so of loading into the game it will ask you if you want to complete the tutorial. I highly recommend it. It doesn’t do a great job of teaching you the intricacies of the game, but it gives you a quick rundown of the controls and them rewards you with some pretty helpful stuff for your first character.

Once you complete this quick tutorial it will transport you back to your starting area and the real game can begin. You’ll be happy to hear that the game is quest centric, so unless you really want to, you won’t have to grind for your XP. At least not without a quest involved. The downside is that, in the human area, the quests are pretty mundane. You aren’t saving the world yet, but you are helping old ladies and cripples get what they need. On the Elven side of things you are force fed the history of the Elves, and it actually is more enjoyable that way. Of course the Elven race was created later, being introduced in the games first free expansion “The Elven Prophecy”.

When the game came out I remember most people dismissing it as a WoW clone, both in graphic style and in gameplay. I simply disagree. The graphic style is somewhat cartoony and designed, like WoW, to not require an amazing computer to run. That said I think the art style borrows more from games like Guild Wars and Lineage II than World of Warcraft. I can’t speak for the gameplay yet, as most MMOs are similar in control and I wouldn’t call that cloning. One thing they DID clone completely is the UI. You have your character portrait and stats in the top left, circular minimap with buttons in the top right, action bar on the bottom and chat window in the bottom left. While that is a little bit of a let down it’s not a terrible thing. WoW’s UI is amazing for an MMO and it’s not surprising most games that have come out afterward have copied it.

The sound design is pretty impressive. The background music is very enjoyable and it makes me feel like I’m watching an epic movie. It’s not always a perfect fit for the scene, but it’s still a treat to hear. The combat sounds range from acceptable for the melee combat to pretty impressive sounding for the magic wielders. The Mages electric attacks are particularly impressive sounding. The rest of the sound effects are acceptable but they don’t particularly stand out.

Equipment works the same as most MMOs these days, with color determining how good the gear is. There is nothing particularly unique until you get into the rune system, which doesn’t come into play much in the first ten levels.

One of the more unique aspects of Runes of Magic is the crafting system. First of all you can learn all of the crafting and gathering professions and train them up to the beginning of the second tier. At which point you will need to pick which professions you want to continue with. At level 10 that still hasn’t come into play, so I am able to try all of the different professions and decide which one is for me. It also takes two gathering professions to supply the crafting professions, such as herbalism and woodcutting to supply tailoring.

Those who have played Champions Online will recognize the items that appear sometimes when you kill enemies. It may be a shield icon, or a book. When you walk over the object it will give you a short term buff that can be pretty nice, such as increased health, or increased Talent Point or XP generation.

RoMDropPotion

Speaking of Talent Points, they don’t work like they do in WoW. Instead, as you complete quests or level you’ll receive hundreds of TP (Talent Points). You will also receive some when you kill mobs. For each character level you gain you can spend TP to level up your spells. While at first you can level up everything, as you level you will eventually need to start specializing once you obtain more and more abilities to spend TP on.

Lastly, I will briefly mention the dual class system.  At level 10 you can decide which secondary class you would like, and much like Final Fantasy XI you will only gain levels on your active class. So when you first get your second class you will need to go back to the starting area, which isn’t very far, and level your second class up from 1. This didn’t seem to take nearly as long, and there were plenty of quests so I didn’t have to grind at all. You also gain some stats and spells from your other class, which can be really nice. For instance the Mage class uses mana to cast spells. When dual classing you could perhaps do like I did and choose a Priest as the second class, to increase your caster talents and give you some heals, or you could pick something like a Scout. The Scout uses energy to shoot arrows, so if you run low on mana you can use your Scout abilities to finish off the mob, or vice versa.

I’m not sure how this will work out yet, but I will let you know in the second review of Runes of Magic, levels 10-20, coming soon.

Treant

Rating for levels 1-10:

Gameplay: 6.0 out of 10. The game is fun, but at this level the only thing that separates the gameplay from other games in the genre is the buff drops, and those happen so rarely that it doesn’t help distinguish it much.

Graphics: 7.9 out of 10. The graphics are aging a little bit now, but the texture work is still pretty impressive in some areas. I even enjoy the look of RoM more than that of WoW in many cases. Sadly it seems to suffer from “PS2 Lighting”. The lighting seems flat, like it’s constantly dusk. Still, the textures are better than EQII, which isn’t very hard to do.

Sound: 8.5 out of 10. Sure the music may be out of place sometimes, but I want to buy the soundtrack. Between that and the sound of the Mages spells I really enjoyed the sound work for Runes of Magic.

Unique: 2.5 out of 10. I can see things changing as I get higher in level, but at the moment I don’t see much that separates it from most other MMOs on the market, including the now free to play LOTRO. Still, the inclusion of tried and true MMO tropes, but with a unique combination, makes the game pretty enjoyable. Enough to keep me playing.

Overall: 24.9 out of 40. Not bad but not the best game out there. Still, for free, the game is truly enjoyable and it’s a shame more people haven’t given it a serious try.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm Cinematic Intro

October 17, 2010

Blizzard released the cinematic intro for Cataclysm on their official youtube channel today. It’s amazing, as expected from Blizzard.

Cataclysm Cinematic Intro

Enjoy and let me know what you think.

PvP IS PvE

October 16, 2010

pvp

Syncaine had a really great post earlier today. We don’t tend to agree with one another much at all but his post on PvP Hotspots and what creates a good PvP atmosphere actually agrees pretty closely with mine, though with a slightly different view of the whole process.

I can’t speak for Syncaine obviously, only for what I take from his blog. He brings up the fact that you can’t expect people to just PvP in an MMO. It’s hard to put a finger on the exact reason people will spend 100 hours or more PvPing just for fun in their favorite shooter, and yet if given the exact same offer in an MMO they refuse to take it. Maybe it’s got something to do with the greater skill involved in FPSs, or perhaps it’s the early knowledge that all you are getting is PvP.

The fact remains that players in MMOs need something to encourage them to PvP. A one time reward like a sword or piece of armor isn’t going to do the trick either. You need a reason for those people to fight and keep fighting. That, I believe, is where PvE comes in.

Several companies have come out with MMOs focused on PvP heavily. Wanting to make a great PvP game is a noble goal, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that if you want your PvP game to be a success then you need to focus heavily on PvE. Many won’t believe me at first, but I think that most of us older gamers, gamers raised on Ultima Online and Dark Age of Camelot, would.

In Ultima Online the biggest PvP hotspots were areas with rare gathering nodes, and dungeons. Both of these were very PvE oriented areas with PvE oriented people, invaded by Griefers who were looking to destroy the easy prey and get a ton of gathered materials very easily. This led to other PvPers, the ones that actually wanted to PvP and not just screw with helpless people. These new PvPers were attracted to the area not for the loot from the miners and dungeon delvers, but from the bodies of the Griefers. The Griefers got mad that their free loot was suddenly harder to get, and in their anger they began to fight back. But the easy marks didn’t stop coming, because that is where the goods were. The Griefers kept coming thanks to the supply of prey, and the PvPers kept coming for two reasons: 1) to have fun in PvP, and 2) to defend the easy marks who were bringing ores and rare weapons and magic components to town to trade, which resupplied both the Griefers AND the PvPers.

Jump forward to Dark Age of Camelot and one of the most popular PvP areas was Darkness Falls. Like Syncaine says: “the original and constant driver for that area had nothing to do with PvP, but rather the great and varied (lvl wise) PvE…”.

When games like Warhammer tried to make a great PvP game, while leaving their PvE content as a hollow shell and separating it from the PvP, they kicked themselves before they even launched. Darkfall (speaking from an outsiders perspective) seems to have been a victim of the same thing until it’s recent expansion. They tried to create PvP hotspots by making locations to conquer, and due to their location they were desired, but they didn’t draw the PvEers in the numbers that were necessary. Once they made a PvE hotspot that was wildly desired by everyone, the PvPers came on their own.

Of course Darkfall has the problem that it never attracted PvEers in very large numbers. The majority of Darkfall players are lovers of hardcore FFA PvP. The game practically has a sign on the box saying “if you don’t want to PvP stay away.” The attitude of it’s average player doesn’t help either. In truth it just might make their entire game more enjoyable if they encourage carebears to join and get hooked on the gameplay, then get hooked on the FFA aspect. Don’t tell them that though, the very notion of a carebear enjoying their game makes them spit blood.