NBI 2013 Over Already?

A Month Already?

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I can’t believe the month of October is all but over now… and with it draws close the second running of the Newbie Blogger Initiative.  This time around I have done a fairly horrible job of keeping up with the initiative as a sponsor.  I believe I did only two posts this year, but more than anything I just really did not feel like I had much advice to offer.  Even though I am blogging every single morning, I don’t necessarily feel like I have figured anything out.  The key seems to be to just write something…. regardless of how good you think it may or may not be.

As the month went on we had more and more participation.  At last count there were twenty six new blogs that signed up on the forums.  Hopefully they figured out that illusive secret to sustainability.  It took me several years to end up at the pattern that works for me, so hopefully it will take them significantly less time.  I am cheating this morning and going to close the month with a rundown of the various blogs that make up the Class of 2013.

Class of 2013 Revisited

So check them out, add them to your RSS feed and watch them grow over the coming year.  Here is hoping that they all found fertile enough soil to stick around and flourish.  The only really solid advice I can give is to just keep blogging.  It doesn’t matter what you are writing about, just keep writing about something.

Nostalgia Won

Crackception

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That’s right… you are seeing the above image correctly.  That is two in game npcs in World of Warcraft playing Hearthstone.  The game that has caused such an upwelling of nostalgia… is being played in the game I am nostalgic about.  I feel as though they are missing an amazing opportunity here however.  If you could ACTUALLY play hearthstone inside of World of Warcraft, the same way you can play Legends of Norrath inside of Everquest 2… it would quickly become the ultimate piddling around waiting on someone experience.  I can remember how amazingly popular the bejeweled and peggle became as pre-raid activities and those were just addons.

It would be amazing if they wove hearthstone into every aspect of the game.  Peggle loot was a thing that existed, and while it took forever it was an extremely fun way to settle loot disputes.  Would be equally cool if you could do something like that with hearthstone.  However that would also be a sure fire way to derail the gameplay, but still an enjoyable one.  I guess the hearthstone game board feels all the more enjoyable… when you see it in a three dimensional table top version in the above screenshot.

Nostalgia Won

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The fact that you are now seeing fresh World of Warcraft shots on my blog means that I lost the battle with nostalgia.  I caved last night and renewed my account for a month so I could get in and satiate the urge to play that has been brought on by hearthstone.  I go into this knowing full well that this decision almost always ends up in tears of frustration, but I felt like it was something I needed to “get out of my system” nonetheless.  I have to say… once I got past the extreme awkwardness of seeing people I had not seen in years, that the overall gameplay was rather enjoyable.

I spent some time piddling around Timeless Isle and managed to find a chest with some purple shoulders in it.  Of course my friends immediately told me those were “not good”, but hell when I left the game I was still in blues.  I did not manage to stick around for much raiding at all in Panda-land so anything I could get was a massive upgrade for me.  I liked the concept of the timeless isle overall, the fact that you could get decent purple gear just by killing random stuff out in the world.  Additionally apparently there are lots and lots of chest out there that have the random chance of dropping something that can turn into a piece of gear like I found.

Similarly I had quite a bit of fun leveling Belghast.  For whatever reason post Wrath, Belghast has not really seen any action.  Right before the release of Panda-land I managed to push him up to 85 only to stable him again.  For whatever reason it feels somehow wrong to have Belghast NOT be at the level cap for an expansion.  Even though I pretty much transitioned to playing my Deathknight in Wrath, I would like to see him at least hit the cap here.  The game is always enjoyable when I still have quests to do, but once that slows down I am sure I will get bored with it yet again and wander off in another direction.  I know for certain that I am not back fully, because even if I end up landing for awhile… I will be gone once again when Elder Scrolls Online comes out.  Right now every game that is not ESO is just a placeholder.

Pre-Endgame Game

Limited Time Stuff

First off I guess let me open todays post with a complaint.  I really had nothing much to talk about as I sat down at the keyboard, so I did what I normally do and sifted through my RSS feed.  I spent most of yesterday super busy and really did not have time to read anything much.  One of the first posts was over on Rift Junkies talking about how apparently there was a new mount available for only four hours on the Rift store.  They are apparently calling this unstable artifacts, which is a clever excuse to make something super limited that costs a hell of a lot on the store.

I am not against the 2700 credit price tag, but I am against the concept of limited time items.  I hate when something goes into game only to be pulled out swiftly keeping anyone else from getting the item.  I honestly don’t care about the red Kirin at all, because I think the mounts are ugly, but for me it is more a principle of it.  When a game starts doing one time only things, I really lose interest quickly.  I get extremely frustrated anymore when I am asked to play a game on someone else’s schedule.  With the recent rapidly expiring world event each phase lasting only two days… this seems to be the direction that Rift wants to move in.

The more of this type of content goes into the game the less and less interested I am in it.  There are so many things about Guild Wars 2 that I think I would enjoy, but the fact that content expires roughly every two weeks keeps me from wanting to dig in and try it.  I don’t want to ONLY play this one game, and in order to farm up every new thing in the world… I would really have to do just that.  The whole playing the same game every single night concept just seems foreign to me.  There are so many different games I want to experience, so knowing I will go into a game missing out on things… makes me think my time is better spent elsewhere.

Pre-Endgame Game

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I guess while I am complaining, I might as well not stop with Rift.  Onwards to FInal Fantasy A Realm Reborn!  We absolutely lucked out as a guild and had eight of us reaching 50 within a few days of each other.  Well that is not true I guess, we had one super impatient gamer rush through to the end game and sit there without any additional support for about two weeks.  However the majority of us arrived at the end game at roughly the same time.  This made the sequence of three eight man instances seem not that horrible in part because it was fresh content for all of us.  However now that we have another three characters up to 50, I am realizing what a slog it really is.

So much of the end of the main storyline in FFXIV reminds me of the trials and tribulations of having to key players for various raid instances in both EQ and WoW.  Be warned there will be some spoilers, so if you care about that sort of thing, I would stop reading.  I will try my best to do as few as possible, but it is going to happen.  Essentially when you hit 49 you start down a sequence of events that leads to the finishing of the main storyline.  The first of these is Cape Westwind, yet another trial.  We have done this now three times… and quite honestly I cannot tell you exactly how the mechanics work.  The biggest pain is getting eight players online at the same time.

Next you run through a few quests and end up unlocking Castrum Meridianum…  which is surprise surprise another eight man dungeon.  This takes a little over an hours time normally if you are not doing the speed run chicanery… and now that every mob in the instance drops decent money there really is no reason why you would.  These places are decent money.  Once you finish up in there, you do a few more quests and wind up stalled on The Praetorium… yet another 8 man dungeon.  This one takes quite a bit longer than the previous one and is a wee bit trickier at times.  Finally after finishing this sequence of events you can finish the main storyline and unlock Amdapor Keep.

We have been working our way through these for Cyl, Opo and Tivo… and the problem with an eight man dungeon is trying to accommodate eight different play schedules.  We really only seem to have time to do one of the dungeons in the sequence per night.  Last night we were trying to figure out when we could pull together a group next…  and the problem is we are unlikely to be able to get ALL of the necessary players online until next week sometime.  As we started going through the days, there was one player that could not attend on each of the nights.  While the final storyline is extremely cool… it just seems like a lot of bullshit to have to slog through to even begin the end game grind.

Norrath Calling

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Towards the end of the night I ended up logging out of FFXIV and popping into EQ2 for a bit.  I have said it before, and I will say it again… sooner or later I always return to playing EQ2.  I am not sure if I am ready to be back in it yet, but I did some questing out in Withered Lands and enjoyed the relaxed pace.  My friend that recently returned was telling me excitedly about the guilds plans to start doing heroics, and while I think that is cool I don’t want anyone to factor me in their gaming decisions yet.  I already have a game where I am a key resource for running instances… I really don’t want another one.

That is not to say that I don’t enjoy tanking dungeons, because I do… otherwise I wouldn’t keep returning to playing that role.  I just find that tanking takes more out of me than it used to.  I cannot chain run instances like I once could.  So I find myself needing something else to play so I can have a bit of peace and quiet… and more importantly downtime.  Everquest 2 has always been a good filler of this niche.  I would like to get my Shadowknight up to 95 so I can be prepared for the new content when it releases as well.  I still feel like in many ways I am running from WoW, because I know that will only end up in tears of frustration.  I continue to ignore its sirens call by playing other things… just not sure how long that will work.

5 Settings Prime for MMOs

I know there are several folks out there that really hate it when an franchise gets turned into an MMO.  This is not a post for you in the least, so I will probably only serve to frustrate you this morning.  For me… I love MMOs, it is my favorite type of game, and comprises of the vast majority of games I play.  If you check my Raptr profile you will see that the majority of all the high consumption titles are massively multiplayer online games.  However every now and then there is a setting that feels like it screams to be an MMO.  These are the five settings I want most in MMO form.

5 – Rifts

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For those who have not been hanging around game shops most of their lives… this title could go completely unnoticed.  It never really had the big money marketing that for example Dungeons and Dragons had, but it represents a good chunk of my childhood.  I love the palladium system, not because it was some great feat of gaming.  Quite frankly the rules are pretty lousy if you get down to it and and extremely cumbersome.  What always drew me to the system was the promise of being able to create damned near anything you can think of.  Rifts took this earlier concept of the palladium system and infused it with so much personality.

Rifts sets up an earth where the magic has returned and caused leylines to blaze open across the planet.  When two intersect there is a chance of a dimensional rift opening and spilling forth all manner of crazy into our world.  This alone would be enough for me… but additionally they have set up all sorts of great opposing forces… the Splynn, the Coalition, the Federation of Magic, the Triax, the NGR, the list literally continues on and on as there are over 30 separate sourcebooks each filled with its own list of opposing forces.  Additionally there are some pretty amazing character classes like Glitterboys, Juicers, Cyberknights, Techno Wizard, Ley Line Walker, Psi-Stalker, and again these go on and on.  There is just so much world to wrap a game around, and almost unlimited content to explore for expansions.

4 – Shadowrun

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This is another long time dream of mine to see Shadowrun in a massively multiplayer setting.  This was a huge system as I was growing up, and while I never actually played a lot of it, I owned most of the books.  Similar to Rifts it is a setting of an alternate earth, where magic and technology clash.  Drawing upon the William Gibson novel Neuromancer it adds the element of the Matrix and cyber warfare.  I thought this could lead to some really interesting gameplay.  Where part of your party is physically running a dungeon while your decker is going along with you in cyberspace trying to remove obstacles from your path.

Recently the Shadowrun console games have been revitalized in the form of Shadowrun Returns… which is cool but I would much rather have a huge living and breathing world to explore than to do so in a top down tactical setting.  Once again there are tons of source books over the run of this system that could be drawn upon to keep the world going for years.  There is also a similarly long list of really interesting classes to play, with lots of different gameplay styles to explore.

3 – Mass Effect

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This one will likely never happen after the tale of Star Wars the Old Republic and how it struggled to find an audience.  But I think we all can admit that Mass Effect as a whole is a much better universe to explore than that of SWTOR.  The ME saga, or at least up until the very end is one of the better science fiction storylines I have experienced.  I would love to see a serialized television show chronicling the exploits of Shepard.  As far as an online universe would go, we would have to set the game significantly earlier than the events of ME1.  Essentially from that game forward there is an apocalyptic destiny set in motion, and that really does not give much room for growth.

In order to make this work we would need to set the game either before or after the main trilogy, and really don’t think ANY of the endings to ME3 gives us enough room to move within game wise.  As a result I would set the game a few years before the events of Mass Effect.  This should allow the game to evolve along the normal course of events that happen in the main trilogy.  Similar to the LOTRO game, you would be different characters in the same universe watching the events play out around you.  There are so many different cultures and opposing viewpoints that it just begs for a MMO to be wrapped around it.

2 – Fallout

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War, War Never Changes.  Every time I hear Ron Perlman utter those words I get this massive nostalgic wave of feels was over me.  I love everything there is about the Fallout setting, and have been a series diehard since I saved up the cash in college to buy the first one.  I missed the boat on the whole Wasteland thing, so I am hoping the Kickstarter will give me a taste of what that world would have been line.  I want a Fallout MMO so badly, but more than anything… I want one that CONTROLS like Fallout.  I want so much to like Fallen Earth, but I just cannot get past the control scheme, and it destroys the game for me.

The whole post apocalyptic wasteland is such fertile ground for an MMO.  Especially a huge sandbox setting like Fallout.  As far as classes go, I think you would have to do the same sort of open ended treatment that you already have in Fallout.  Mainly I would be happy with just allowing a persistent and co-operative version of the existing Fallout games.  There are already so many different competing interests in the wasteland, and I feel like you could pretty much plunk another game down at any point during the current storyline.  Mainly I just want to join the brotherhood of steel and wander around the wasteland in power armor like I always do.

1 – Elder Scrolls

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Okay I admit it… this is absolutely cheating since we all know there is already an Elder Scrolls MMO on the way.  However until it releases sometime next year, this one stays at number one with a bullet.  There has never been another series that has captured so much of my imagination as has the Elder Scrolls Series.  I love literally everything about the world.  The absolute vastness of it all, the lore, the Aedra and Daedra.  Nothing inspires me more than having a game with a fully fleshed out world and its pantheon of gods.  I think that more than anything is what glued my attention to Everquest and Norrath, and the complex relationship between the various gods in Tamriel makes that setting seem simplistic.

More than anything, I love the freedom of the Elder Scrolls settings to completely abandon my quest chain and wander off into the world exploring freely.  I love that there is always something to find hidden in this nook or cranny.  I love almost more than anything that there are tons of books in the games, each with their own story that only serves to make the world more rich and three dimensional.  You have some amazing races, each with their own deep background and other races that no longer exist like the Dwemer have have littered the landscape with their former greatness.  I just hope that the MMO version can gather up all this great lineage and give me vast tracts of interesting to go off and explore.  This is the game I am most looking forward to, and you can bet that when it releases I will pretty much forsake everything else at least for awhile.

How Diablo Ought Be

Hibernation Weekend

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This is one of those mornings when I really wish I did not have to write a blog post.  I guess in the grand scheme of things… there is nothing forcing me to do so, but I would hate to break my streak of daily posts.  This is one of those hibernation weekends when neither my wife or I really want to leave the house.  In fact I went out and got breakfast in my fuzzy slippers that look like shoes this morning and a hoodie.  Not like the folks at the convenience store really pay too much attention to what people are wearing, but it was a reasonable facsimile of “dressed”.

Yesterday I was completely all over the place game wise.  I started off the day by playing quite a bit of Hearthstone, this was a side effect of me wanting the gold from my daily quest and a new friend just getting into the game.  Once he got through the tutorial and unlocked a few decks we played a few games.  The first game he trounced me liberally, and the second two I managed to pull ahead significantly mostly due to him not getting the cards he needed when he needed them.  Playing against actual players has made me extremely aggressive when it comes to Hearthstone, and I am not really sure how to tone that back a notch.

Mixed Bag of Gaming

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After hearthstone I poked my head into Rift for a bit, but really didn’t find much enjoyment there.  I am not sure what it is but right now Rift is just not that fun of a game for me.  I am sure before long I will cycle back around to it and it will once again be the next best thing to sliced bread.  I have the same sort of thing going on with EQ2 as well.  I have a desire to play some, but when I actually log in I have no desire to do anything.  So in both cases I poke my head in and then log back out almost as quickly.

Right now I am still enjoying Allods quite a bit, but I have a feeling that very soon the bottom will drop out.  I have heard that after a certain point there are very few non-group quests.  Currently at level 8 I am still having no problem at all, and this is sufficiently scratching that World of Warcraft itch.  However I get the sense that I am nearing the end of the starter city of <Insert Russian Sounding Name Here>.  I am really enjoying the game, and it is extremely well crafted, but as a whole the storyline and missions are forgettable.  There is really little “special” about the game other than the awesome soviet era steampunk feel.

Forced

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After a bunch of mucking around yesterday, I settled into playing a brand new game with some friends.  Forced had been a title that popped up on our radar during the Kickstarter, and was subsequently picked up as a Steam Greenlight title.  Well it has officially released this week, and one of my friends decided to buy a four pack and distribute copies.  They describe the game as Diablo meets Left4Dead… and to some extent that makes sense.  However I do not think that description really explains just how much cooperation is needed to make it through the levels.  In many ways it reminds me of Gauntlet Legends… if Gauntlets Legends required you to use the NES Rob the Robot to make it through the levels.

Each of the gladiators chooses a weapon that will dictate their active and passive talent trees as well as set the overall flavor of the arena combat.  Above you can see an image of three weapons in the preparation room leading into any of the arenas.  I am currently holding the magma hammer and all of the attacks both passive and active are somehow fire based.  To the left of that pool is the green daggers, most of the attacks being about speed, stealth and health regeneration.  In a way they are the support class in that they can generate combo points on the target than the heavier hitters can then consume.  On the bottom left you have the Ice Shield, and this is the tank of the group focusing on being able to negate large amounts of damage.  Finally you have the D&D Animated series style lightning bow, with chain lightning and energy based attacks.

How Diablo Ought Be

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The controls are also extremely unique… or at least unique to me.  In many ways it reminds me of Ikari Warriors in that you have one set of controls to move your body and another to control your facing.  If you choose mouse and keyboard this means that WASD will move you physically around the arena and your mouse will choose your facing with Left and Right mouse buttons being your primary and secondary attacks to start out.  Later on you will pick up additional attacks Q being the first of these.   I assume with a controller one stick is likely your movement and the other your facing with your triggers being your primary attacks, but quite honestly I have not tried this out.

The pace of the action was so intense most of the time, that I quite honestly forgot to hit the screenshot last night.  However the gameplay revolves around using the glowing sphere of light Balfus your “spirit mentor” to move around the arena and active switches and traps for you.  As a team this gets super tricky since you have ONE balfus and each of you can call it at any given moment… so this involves a lot of communication to figure out who can use it next.  Additionally if your timing is right you can position the next person to call it as soon as one objective is done.  It is hard to fully understand how the gameplay works cooperatively without seeing it in action.  So as a result I am going to embed the trailer that shows quite a bit of play.

Challenging Co-Op

 

So essentially there are so many ways to fuck over your friends while playing this game.  There are maps for example where Balfus provides a protective bubble, and if you stray outside of that bubble you take large amounts of damage per tick.  So these force your team to be placed JUST right as you pay your way through the map.  It becomes progressively easier to abandon a player on the edges of the map and trap them.  So for us… access to voice chat was SUPER handy.  We kept communicating and I was generally the dullard that tried his best not to ever call the ball.  My job was to call down orbital strikes in the form of meteors upon the heads of the big baddies and consume combo points with my heavy hitting attacks.

You get a crystal for each objective that you complete.  On each map there is a completion shard, a time based shard, and one for getting a specific objective.  They have made these in such a way as it is super difficult to get all three within one run.  So as a result you can do each arena over and over to try and gain as many crystals as you can.  Last night in our little 2.5 hour play session we managed to rack up 15 shards.  The first world was honestly rather straightforward but as we entered world two… the frequency of cursing increased massively.

Downright Brutal

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Face it… you are going to be seeing a lot of this screen.  The game excels as forcing various no-win scenarios if you are not fast enough or clever enough to figure out the trick on the first attempt.  We would have probably continued on for another hour and a half had one of our players internet not taken a massive dump.  At that point we figured… it was a good place to take a break.  The gameplay is extremely frenetic, but also amazingly rewarding when you and your friends manage to complete a scenario.  If you too have a group of friends to game with… I highly suggest buying a four pack and distributing copies because forced provides an extremely unique gameplay experience for multiple people.  As a whole I give the game a big thumbs up.

Playing Dice with Humanity

Tribalism

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Yesterday my friends were having a long drawn out conversation that started out about the current Roma controversies, wound its way through discussions of any insular society… and like always an hour or so later ended up landing in the game world.  Namely discussion fell onto the concept that even within small groups, cliques and teams form and the number over players it takes before that happens.  Based on the discussion we agreed that likely the smallest number that really starts to occur is around seven people.

So none of this so far has any real bearing on todays post…  but throughout the conversation we started talking about the openness to new players.  One of the things that disturbed me a bit, is that one of my friends said that I was most likely the least open to new players, or at least the most suspicious.  This went against my own personal vision of myself, considering I am constant abducting people into my guilds on a regular basis.  So as I explored this line of thought further, he said that mostly it was due to my views on PUGs.

No PUGs Allowed

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While this is not necessarily the thing I would like people to think of when they think of me… my guild as a whole has known for years that if they want me to tank for them, my price is that we have a full group of known good players.  Usually this means that they are folks from the guild, but I am also completely open to friends of the guild in these scenarios.  Basically… I don’t want to enter the group finder and play dice with humanity.  The thing is… this did not used to be the case.  I used to PUG players in a regular basis both in dungeons and even raids.

This got me thinking… what changed, why did I no longer even consider finding players outside of my monkey sphere to fill groups.  I used to build groups on a nightly basis and even believe in it so much that I wrote a series of guides to covering the finer points of networking, communication and assembly of a winning PUG group.  This was not something that was limited to WoW, but something I had done in many games previously.  So I guess the question is… what changed to make me so fearful of the player base that I now refuse to pug even a single player into one of the groups I am responsible for.

Before the Dungeon Finder

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Without too many leaps of logic I landed on the specific moment it changed… The Dungeon Finder.  I have railed on the evils of the dungeon finder for years, but I don’t think I have really elaborated on that point enough.  Essentially in the world before the dungeon finder I regularly relied upon social channels, trade chat, and other guilds to find folks to fill out my groups.  I drew upon my friends list to fill the most basic elements.  As a tank I knew that all I needed to do was find one of my many amazing healers that I worked with regularly, and then the dps could be filled out in short order.

The key point here is that with each player I talked to… I actually took the time to exchange a few lines of dialog with them before throwing them a group invite.  It is amazing how much you can gauge about the personality, intentions and general character of a player from a few sentences.  There was a very human element to this discourse, and over the years I developed and instinct about who would make for a good dungeon run by the way they presented themselves.  To some extent I had learned to prune through the bad apples and seize upon the good ones only.

Additionally playing with players on your own server there was a bit of an honor code in the works.  As the guild leader of one of the larger guilds on our server, I knew the leaders of most of the other guilds.  So as a result if I had trouble with one of their players in a dungeon run, I knew precisely who to come to with those concerns.  This lead most players to be on their best behavior, since there were potential social consequences of making an ass of yourself in public.  Additionally I met a lot of really amazing people through this process, many of them that would end up in my guild or raid later on.

Playing Dice with Humanity

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The Dungeon finder was the first blow to this world, but since we were dealing with mostly players from our own server… it wasn’t really that bad.  I still regularly queued as a tank almost out of welfare to help the folks get those dungeon runs.  I continued to still meet great players, and the bad ones were quickly added to my ignore list never to be seen again.  However players complained, that the queues were still too long, and not enough tanks and healers were queuing.  So as a result Blizzard started the cross server queuing madness and this was the nail in the coffin for me and pugging.

When there are no social consequences to ones actions… the worst possible behavior can be expected if not assumed.  Periodically I would get convinced to queue with someone for a dungeon, and every single one of these occasions lead me to log out of the game frustrated and angry afterwards.  I learned quickly that if you play dice with humanity, you are always going to loose.  I met exactly ONE really awesome player through random groups, and that was only because the player happened to be on my own server.  I didn’t really mind braving the bullshit as a DPS, but I refused to tank the instances any longer.

Rift Happened

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So in a whole series of events I ended up leaving World of Warcraft, and entered a game without a dungeon finder system.  It is funny how quickly I fell back into the old habits of building groups from social channels.  Level 50 chat served as a launch pad for groups, and quickly within a few weeks time I had built up a long list of “known good players” that I could draw into dungeons.  As a result we were filling out Elite groups on a nightly basis and happily clearing dungeons.  I met enough people that there was even talk of merging in with another guild at one point… but we decided against it.

When the dungeon finder was released for Rift I watched the same events play out all over again.  The social channels dried up, folks no longer responded to calls for groups in Level 50 chat… and everyone went back to the wow-like ways of relying on the dungeon finder to make a group for them.  Additionally the community of the server as a whole suffered.  The same old wow-like behaviors came back and the chorus of “PULL BIG” and “GO GO GO” returned as well.  So once more.. I stopped grouping and resurrected a rampart around myself with a sign on it reading “No PUGs Allowed”. 

From that point forward my rule as a whole has pretty much been… I will tank any dungeon you want me to tank, but you have to make sure we have a full guild group before we do it.  I refuse to pug in any players that come from random dungeon finder systems.  I would literally rather not do dungeons, than have to deal with the random chance of finding a decent person in the system.  Most of the time this is not really a huge deal since I tend to bring a large group of people with me into whatever game we end up playing.  However I am running a lot fewer dungeons than I would like to, and I am not sure how I can get past my phobia of strangers.  So at the end of the day… after all of this… I guess I can see my friends point.

Yarn Chasing

Hearth Dailies

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Last night I played quite a bit of Hearthstone, as I had allowed my quests to stack up on me.  For those not familiar, there are daily quests you can do in hearthstone that earn you gold.  The gold can then be spent on packs of cards.  The quests tend to be things like “Destroy 40 Minions” or “Win 2 Games as Priest or Druid”.  The first kind are easy to do and simply involve plugging at it until you have filled the requested amount of carnage, the later are more challenging since you actually have to beat players. 

While I can fairly readily do this if I am playing the Warrior or Hunter decks, this is not so much the case with the other decks.  Through the process of leveling each “class” to 10, you unlock various basic cards along the way that you can’t get any other way.  The problem is, that while my Hunter is 15 and my Warrior 10… the rest of the classes are in the 1-5 range… which means they are missing significant weapons from their arsenal.  Despite these constraints however I still managed to clear my quest log by winning 2 games as Priest, 2 as Rogue and 2 as a Shaman.  The reward for what took an hour and a half to do… 2 new packs of cards and in the process a few more rares.

A New Whim

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While playing Hearthstone I am still regularly suffering bouts of nostalgia, and while I am still resisting the urge to re-up World of Warcraft, I find myself craving that style of play.  In a sequence of events that will not really make sense to anyone… I decided as I played Hearthstone that I would start the Allods client downloading.  Allods has always felt like some weird soviet block steampunky WoW.  I alpha and beta tested the game eons ago when it was rolling out, and remembered it fondly… to be truthful I likely would have played it were it not for at the time the extremely predatory cash shop.

It was an extremely fun place to run around, right up to the point that they introduced the cash shop in beta.  It was then that I lost interested and moved on.  However in the passing years I had heard that the cash shop was greatly relaxed, so I had filed it away as one of those games I wanted to revisit.  Apparently last night was that night as I went through the process of retrieving my password on the account and rolled a brand new character on the free to play server.

Soviet Steampunk

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A few weeks back I talked about the fact that I essentially make the same character in every single game I play.  Since it was always the steampunk nature that appealed to me, I decided to go with the Empire faction instead of the generic fantasy “The League”.  While gibberlings are seriously the coolest idea for a short race, I remember really liking the feel of the Empire better as a whole.  So I attempted to create Belghast, which is always a human equivalent, always dark hair, and always a moustache and goatee.  There was no racial option for black hair so I had to go dark reddish brown, and there was no option for a ponytail so I had to go with another option.

Without really meaning to I seem to have created “Lenin” with hair.  While I felt the character creation options were limited, they were about as varied as WoW, so mostly viable.  I ended up going with a Vanquisher, which based on the fact that it was sword and board… made me assume it was the tank.  Upon playing it for a few minutes I noticed it had the standard protection warrior kit, along with an extremely long cool down charge and eventually a shield bash.  The gameplay was fun but nothing really revolutionary, but then again I was not really expecting innovation.

Shocked and Amused

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I have to say I was extremely pleasantly surprised by the experience.  I found myself really enjoying the questing and gameplay as a whole.  The world is far more intricate and beautiful than I had remembered, and filled with really great ambient music that instead of appearing out of nowhere… seems to come from in game speaker systems adding to the experience.  I killed around two hours playing the game without really realizing it, and ultimately had to pull myself away from it to go to bed.

There is a lot to like in this game, and they seem to have reformed at least a bit their predatory cash shop ways.  While you are leveling you get several freebie items from the cash shop in the form of chests that you can open every 5 minutes.  Through these I got a number of cosmetic items and a 24 slot bag upgrade in additional to several vouchers for free cash shop items.  I feel like this is a way to get you wanting the items from the cash shop, but overall I have gotten quite a bit of nifty stuff without paying a dime, and I am completely fine with that notion.  If it ends up being a game I play quite often I have no problem at all supporting it, and likely will.

Yarn Chasing

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The most bizarre thing of the night however was their guided waypoint system.  For major quests they draw a series of massive glowing arrows along the map pointing out the path you should travel to get to your objective.  However this system goes several steps past that and has put in an automated pathing system in order to get you to your destination.  Out beside every quest in your quest log is a red ball icon, that invokes this giant bouncing ball of yarn.  Your character begins to move of its own accord following the bouncing ball of yarn until you reach the destination.  The whole experience is rather comical as your character willfully chases down this bouncing ball.

I get the impression that large blocks of the player base are playing this game as click to move… since that functionality is defaulted to on.  It was rather shocking the first time I clicked a quest NPC and my character started running towards it.  I turned that feature off since I have never been able to stack click to move control schemes, but it appears that the yarn ball movement system is still in place.  While I don’t use it that often, I am finding it extremely helpful since the quest objective direction are usually unclear as is the mapping system as to where you are actually supposed to go to find things.  Usually I can click the ball of yarn, to get it to show me the vague direction I should travel and them I am good to go.  As a whole I was really surprised by just how much I enjoyed the game, and I look forward to playing again.

Trials of Ascension

Computer Crash

This morning I really don’t have the time to devote to a proper post as I got upstairs, ate my oatmeal, drank my coffee and then noticed one of my computers was stuck in a booting up loop.  As a result I spent most of my normal blogging time trying to resurrect it.  It appears to be gone now, and I will have to figure out what happened over the weekend.  But in the meantime as I play a somber rendition of taps for it… I need to get a post together today. 

Trials of Ascension

 

File this in the “Yet Another MMO Kickstarter” category.  Trials of Ascension came across my RSS feed this morning so I felt like I needed to check it out.  Their claim is that they plan to build a “truly innovative MMORPG” and some of the things they mention wanting would definitely be different.  The tech demo they posted looks pretty spartan, but then again so did the Pathfinder tech demo. Hopefully given resources they will clean that up a bit.  In it’s current state it reminds me quite a bit of the old Atari published MMO Horizons.  Some of the features they mention wanting are…

  • Perma Death – 100 deaths and the character stays dead
  • Random Everything – no static spawns or dungeons
  • Hardcore Gameplay – video talks about wanting to challenge the players a lot
  • No Fast Travel – feels it shrinks the world too much
  • No Global Chat – whisper and shout only work within a radius
  • No Names – can’t see character or npc names
  • Magic Difficult – magic is hard to acquire but extremely powerful
  • GM Team – live GM events and interaction
  • Cooperative Crafting – players have to work together to craft items
  • No Minimap – world map but no way to tell exactly where you are
  • No Con System – no way to determine the level range of a player or mob

Not For Me, But Maybe You

So what they propose is a drastically different game than what is available currently.  I am posting this on my blog because I figure there are several of my readers who would be excited to play something like this.  The problem is… I am not.  I read the list of features they want to implement, and I remember the fervor that was whipped up before Vanguard released about it being a return to hardcore gameplay.  The problem is… players will say they want this sort of a game but they never seem to show up with their pocket books when one is released.

Maybe Kickstarter is a viable vehicle for this sort of niche vision, and potentially it can get built and find a quiet following to keep the lights on.  Mostly I am just shining a light on this existing to let folks who might want to support it know about it.  Personally nothing they are describing sounds like “fun” to me.  I like my modern conveniences and I tend to rebel against the games that don’t have them.  However that is not to say that there are not players out there who have been craving this more hardcore and primitive gaming experience.  In that case support the hell out of this game and hope it makes it through to fruition.

WoW Remix

Gamer Nature

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One of the things I have learned while playing Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn… is that any player from 11 or 14 classic… really hates it when a player compares the game to World of Warcraft.  I’ve seen so many of these “classic” players fill with so much rage the first time someone mentions WoW.  Yesterday I encountered a small bit of it outside of the game in a G+ thread where myself and another tank were giving an up and coming Gladiator some advice on how best to deal with multi-mob threat.

Best advise I have to you is: don’t expect this game to have "WoW equivalents." This isn’t WoW. It’s not a WoW clone. It’s not trying to be WoW. You’ll enjoy the game a lot more if you take it as it is, rather than forcing it to fit some molded preconception you have for it. You’re trying to fit a circle peg into a square hole.

WoW Remix

So I found the above comment rather puzzling.  Especially coming from where this game did… the new version while not a “WoW Clone” is at the very least a WoW Remix.  Almost every ability I have has some simulacrum in World of Warcraft.  For example I think of my Warrior as a mix between a Druid tank and a Deathknight tank.  While it is in fact a unique beast… I still refer to the process of tabbing through mobs and applying Butchers Block as “Tab Sunder”.  Everything ultimately gets referred to more often than not by the wow name for it.  I don’t teleport back to my home location… I hearth.

Since most of the active MMO gamer pool has a relatively short memory… this is the way it has always been.  Before WoW claimed the crown as the most popular MMO… each new release got referred to by the terms we used in Everquest.  Damaging yourself to get back mana… was referred to as “Twitching” or “Cading” in reference to the Necromancer or Shaman spells.  Any form of a speed boost was often referred to as “SoW”, I can remember hearing people call the various speed powers “SoW” in City of Heroes.  To some extent listening to the FFXI diehards talk in FFXIV ARR has been a trip down memory lane… because those players carried with them terms from EQ into XI like DD for direct damage.

Top Dog Sets Rules

Awhile back there was a thread somewhere asking what games you would suggest to new players… and quite honestly despite my sordid relationship with the game, I have to say I would always suggest that someone play at least SOME World of Warcraft.  In my own guild we have a few players who have never played the game, and as a result they miss the references that are made in guild chat and mumble all of the time.  Thing is… this is not just a thing my guild does, this is a thing EVERY guild does in EVERY new game.  World of Warcraft had its own vocabulary that was grown out of the lingo that we used in Everquest.  Essentially as that game eclipsed the other games, its ability names started to take the place of the previous ones that were used.

Today going into any MMO for the first year at least… every single thing in game is going to be referred to by its WoW equivalent.  So the fact that as a seasoned MMO player… I can find immediate and direct WoW equivalents makes me think that the above statement is a little naïve.  FFXIV very much has wow equivalents, just like every game since the rise of wow has… and every game after will as well.  It is the fact that a game becomes the market leader that determines who dictates the vocabulary, because essentially there is nothing new under the sun.  Everything we do in FFXIV also has a direct EQ vocabulary equivalent, as everything we see today is a remix of the things that came before it.  The comparisons will someday shift again, but only when a game has eclipsed the current leader.

Final Funk

Pull Resisted

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Last night I resisted the desire to re-up my World of Warcraft account… in part because I really did not feel like playing much of anything.  When I first logged in I popped into Hearthstone to see what the daily quest happened to be.  It was win two matches with a paladin or priest deck, neither of which I have even finished unlocking the basic cards for.  I made a valiant attempt at victory on a paladin, only to find out that practice victories did not count.  Essentially there is no way in hell right now that I could beat an actual player with either of those decks… even though priest seems to be pretty damned hax based on my regular loss record against them.

After that I popped into Rift for a few but could not seem to find the oomph to play that either.  Though since the shiny vault was backed up again, I figured I would at least take the time to pilfer through that and help relieve some of the stress.  I have been in these unknown funks before, but I am not sure what to do to kick myself out of this one.  Ultimately I ended up retiring to bed and playing Pokémon Y until my wife joined me some time later.

Final Funk

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I think in part my present funk is due to the fact that once again I have topped out another game and lack the drive to do much of anything further in it.  I am still very much enjoying the dungeons when we can pull those together, and I want to do more 8 man content especially now that we have a fresh 50 to run through it.  However I don’t have a single thing I really care to do in game the rest of the time.  So as a result I am simply not logging in.  I did the All Saints’ Wake and it was extremely disappointing and finished within like 10 minutes time or running errands throughout the various cities.

One of my game designers always brings up the “moment to moment” play, and I guess for me this is what is lacking in Final Fantasy.  After pushing my Warrior to 50 and then grinding up a Bard to 50 as well doing literally nothing but FATES… I find myself lacking the desire to do the FATE grind ever again.  Normally tradeskills is a thing that fills in the gaps, providing me some downtime between grinds.  However you can tell a tradeskill system is bad if I would far rather play the EQ2 mini-game crafting system than do anything within the FFXIV system.

Another huge thing that tarnishes my enjoyment of FFXIV is that like it or not… I am a bit of a loot whore.  At the very least much of my homicidal rage against monsters… is because I know they have a chance, albeit slim of dropping something amazing.  I like playing the loot pinata, and when a game has that sort of a loot system I can happily grind again at mobs never quite knowing what the next one will drop.  FFXIV on the other hand has absolutely no meaningful loot.  Mobs drop crafting items, and since I don’t really care about crafting…  there is absolutely zero excitement there.

So as I stand currently I am not playing the game much at all.  My friends have access to me via instant message, twitter, text message… so I figure if they need me to tank for them I am more accessible than most folks.  In the meantime I keep trying to figure out something that excites me to do in the time between dungeon runs.  My other friends seem to default to League of Legends, but quite frankly I don’t enjoy the game enough to ever queue with strangers.  So as a result I end up trying to resist the desire to re-up wow and playing quite a lot of Pokémon.