Wildstar Woes

Good morning you happy people in digital land.  I am trying to muster the “oomph” to do another days post.  For whatever reason since the “flood” happened, I have not been sleeping well at all.  I assume it is all the noise from the air mover fan we have had pointed at our carpet to try and dry everything out.  Luckily at this point… I think the carpet is completely dry so here is hoping that turning it off tonight will render a full nights sleep.

Wildstar Woes

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With all the recent strife caused by our washing machine and the subsequent damage… my morning posts have pretty much been dominated by that.  However in the gaming world there was quite a little shake up… at least as far as the twitter-sphere is concerned.  Monday Carbine announced the business model for Wildstar… and it was shockingly subscription based.  I think most of us in the blogging circles had been expecting Wildstar to launch as a free to play or some sort of hybrid model.  Instead we are getting a full subscription game with an implementation of the PLEX system from Eve.

Essentially all players will have to do one of two things to continue playing.  Either they will pay a monthly subscription fee, or they will purchase and consume a C.R.E.D.D. on the open market that another player has purchased speculating that they can sell it for enough in game currency to make it worth their while.  EQ2 also has a very similar system to this with the Krono, and it seems to work well enough at removing large sums of in game currency from the market.  The big negative however is that mere mortals are unlikely to ever possess enough currency to buy one of these subscription tokens.

In the games I have played that have them they usually start off reasonable enough shortly after the program launches… but over time it continues to trend upwards gaining in game currency value.  For example when I bought my first Krono in EQ2, they were selling for 500-600 platinum.  However the last time I sold one, I was able to get almost 1000 platinum for them in a few months time.  Additionally the REX token in Rift launched at around 600 platinum and now fetches roughly 1500 platinum depending on the server.  Essentially it is constantly pushed out of the reach of anyone that is not an auction house baron or a habitual gold farmer.

Killing Casual Interest

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Essentially in my experience there is really no way that anyone casually interested in a game like this can afford to buy the subscription tokens from the market.  They are stuck with subscribing to keep their access turned on.  For me my interest in Wildstar has gone from passing to pretty much dead zero.  All thanks to the announcement that there will be a subscription attached to the game.  Don’t get me wrong… I love subscriptions in games that I am really interested in.  I will happily pay a monthly fee to support the game and gain buffet style access to all its features.  But I am simply not “really” interested in Wildstar.

The problem is… in my large circle of gaming friends it seems very few players actually are.  There are a bunch of us, that likely would have picked the game up were it a “buy the box” or free to play model.  We would have given it a shot, seen what it was like in close up and maybe for some of us… it would have clicked.  But the fact that I know there is both a box cost and a reoccurring subscription fee really makes the game something I don’t want to take a chance on.   In a world where most of the games I have been playing… are free to play… that subscription fee seems like an awfully binding commitment.

Ultimately I will be sitting in the wings, waiting for the eventual switch over to free to play.  That seems to be the thing to do these days… and what started off as a way to bail out a sinking game seems more and more like an actual business model.  It feels as though there is the initial 6 month money grab of subscriptions… then a planned deployment of free to play to catch the players like me who were only casually interested in their net.  If this is really in fact a business model, it seems like a very disingenuous one.

There are players who are supremely devoted to the subscription business model.  One of my good friends Liore, has gone through a whole arc as a game she deeply cared about… namely Rift went free to play.  While she has softened to the idea of the Rift free to play implementation… since arguably it is likely the most player friendly one on the market..  she still is not a huge fan of the “death of the subscription”.  When a game company sets out to do a 6 month money grab then convert to free to play… they risk alienating all the players that are extremely pro-subscription.

Of Subscriptions

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I guess at the end of the day… my problem is not that Wildstar has gone subscription at all.  It is that Wildstar is not interesting enough to me to make me WANT to pay a subscription for it.  Granted I have yet to play it at all… so maybe the proof is in the play style… but right now having only received the publically available information I am just not interested enough to commit to it.  Additionally I seem to have a love/hate relationship with Science Fiction MMOs.  I enjoy the hell out of them for a short period of time… but the scifi genre in general seems to lack the hooks to keep me there for long.  Granted that would probably all change if a Mass Effect or Fallout MMO were ever to release.  However I highly doubt either of those would happen, and quite frankly after SWTOR Bioware should farm out the “MMO” portion to someone more experienced.

Getting back on track… I don’t see anything fundamentally flawed with the subscription model.  I pay a subscription to Rift, even though it is the best free to play model out there.  I do it because they reward me in so many ways for doing so.  Similarly I used to pay a subscription to EQ2, Lotro, DDO, etc… all of which are free to play games… because the subscription gave me something more than I could get otherwise.  Ultimately this comes down to a case of me just not being that interested in Wildstar.  The main issue with the subscription model is it turns off the revenue stream from players like me that might have bought the box if there were no strings attached.

Ultimately right now there are entirely too many good options for a player to play for no money outlay at all.  It used to be that all you could play for free were a handful of subpar eastern games.  Now you have games like The Secret World and Rift at your disposal… both of which are games I would happily pay a subscription fee for… but don’t have to.  Essentially Carbine is asking players to take a gamble on their game… by buying the box and paying a monthly subscription and I feel as though a lot of players just are not willing to do that any longer.  This is simply my point of view based on the “temperature” from both social media and blogs in response to the rather “shocking” announcement of Wildstar’s payment model.

Grain of Salt

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Essentially you can take everything I just said today with a grain of salt.  Just because I was shocked that Wildstar did not go free to play… does not necessarily mean I am opposed to the subscription model entirely.  For example… if Elder Scrolls Online were to come out tomorrow and announce that they were going to be subscription only, it would be equally shocking.  However I would care far less, because ESO is a game I am already 110% committed to playing at launch.  From the moment it was announced I have been figuratively been like Fry begging them to “Take My Money!”.  The difference is.. ESO is a title I deeply care about and have been wanting to play literally since the first time I played Morrowind.

I had played Daggerfall before, but with Morrowind I was already used to the MMO construct thanks to lots and lots of Everquest 1.  All the while I was playing the game I kept thinking… man this setting would be so much more enjoyable if I could play it co-op.  So I have been 100% sold on the concept of an online Elder Scrolls game since that moment.  Each additional TES game.. has made me want the ability to play it with my friends even more.  When I heard that Zenimax was working on an MMO, I hoped beyond all hope that it was the Elder Scrolls setting.  At this point they could charge a $200 box fee, and $20 a month subscription… and I would likely still figure out some way to play it. 

I feel however that this level of buy in from an MMO player is extremely rare right now.  We are literally deluged with really good options that cost us next to nothing to play.  The MMO climate is nothing like when WoW launched or even when Warhammer Online launched.  Players are not looking to ditch their current game for something new… they want to dip their toes in the water first to make sure they like it better.  Having both a box fee and a subscription fee sufficiently raises that barrier just high enough that a good number of players, myself included will not commit to the game unless we are completely sold on it.  For an unproven brand, from a publisher that is notorious for selling their games short (NCSoft)… it just seems like a massive hurdle to cross.

Wrapping Up

Well I need to wrap this up and get on the road.  We are taking delivery of the new washing machine today… so I am only working a half day.  Essentially I need to get to work and do a full days work in 4 hours.  I hope you all have a great day and I hope everything goes smoothly with the delivery and install of the new washer.  Last night was a bit of a mad dash around the house to try and clear room for the folks to move it into place. I think I am as ready as I will ever be.

Livestream Rundown

Yesterday feels like a really odd occurrence, with three different major live streams…  that were in no way actually connected.  Currently SOE Live is going on right now in Vegas and QuakeCon is going on in Dallas.  From those two we had the huge EQ Next reveal and some really sweet live gameplay footage from a dungeon in Elder Scrolls Online.  Then adding to that stack we had the normal Friday afternoon live stream from Trion worlds announcing a bunch of nifty things coming up in Rift.  As a result I have so many things to say… but it is almost difficult to organize my thoughts around them…  I guess for simplicity sake I will just start in chronological order.

Fungal Grove

 

First up in the stack was some sweet live demo footage of The Elder Scrolls from QuakeCon.  Up to this point we had seen a lot of recorded footage of the game but to the best of my knowledge this is the first real live demo of a player just poking around in the game.  Instead of just having a guy on stage moving around they took it up a notch and decided to run a live dungeon, in this case apparently one in the Ebonheart faction area called Fungal Grove.  All in all the dungeon looked really cool…  it seemed to be story driven as they moved through it providing simple objectives that the group followed.

One of the cool things is that at some point one of the players died and Paul Sage the person moderating the game play mentioned that any player can resurrect any other player using a soul gem.  This should be handy as it removes the need to have resurrection being a class specific skill.  I have to say the first person mode looks exactly like it should… seeing them playing in that and all the animations looking right made me extremely happy.  Additionally the bows seem to work like Elder Scrolls bows should.  Bow sniping from stealth totally appears to be a thing, and that should make a lot of diehard Elder Scrolls players extremely happy.

Ultimately the game looks exactly like what it is supposed to be… Elder Scrolls but Online with other players.  Additionally it does not seem like they are trying to be any of the other MMOs on the market.  The problem I had with SWTOR was that it felt and looked like World of Warcraft in space.  The storyline was awesome, but ultimately you were left playing a vanilla era WoW experience apart from that.  This looks like Skyrim with people… which is all I really wanted while playing the previous Elder Scrolls games.  I am definitely looking forward to seeing this in person.

Pixar EQMinecraft

 

Okay if you did not have a chance to watch this all yesterday… stop what you are doing and watch it right now.  This is some seriously amazing stuff and I do not want to be the one that blunts the impact.  Watched the above videos?  SOE Trolled us… and trolled us hard yesterday.  If you watched the videos… there was roughly 20 minutes of filler ahead of the meat of the demonstration.  So much frustrating and bad jokes were flying over twitter as we all experienced it in person.  A lot of us, myself included started to feel like maybe they were putting up filler because they really did not have that much to show.  We all remember the filler content from Blizzcon a few years back that clearly were meant to be Titan presentations.

Once the trolling subsided… Dave Georgeson… quite possibly the happiest man on the planet EVER…  came on stage and started easing into the presentation by showing us some concept art.  Then like a master showman… he drops the bomb on us by showing us a bunch of screenshots that look almost exactly like the concept art.  Just to prove that the game really looks like that, he does a flythrough of the very painterly zone of Ashfang.  The world honestly feels like it is made out of clay… has a very claymation appearance to it.  I was pretty questionable about how the world would look until later when he got into demos that involved motion and characters.

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If you were like me… a year or so ago you were perplexed when all the sudden SOEmote was introduced into Everquest 2.  It seemed like an extremely detailed system to build…  but made zero sense that they did it when they did it.  Apparently EQ2 was a test for what they were planning on doing with EQ Next.  The above shot shows a Human Female Caster going through all of the range of emotions.  The amount of squash and stretch in the faces gives it a very Pixar quality that I am amped to see in person.  Ultimately that was the only real aspect I was interested in about Wildstar, so EQ Next has completely blown that out of the water.

Additionally they went into detail to explain why the world looks like it does.  Apparently everything is made out of voxels, and as a result every single object in the world is destructible.  That means as you are going through a battle… you can knock out a bridge to keep forces from getting to you… or pound a mob into a column and the column breaks from the motion.  They did a few demos to show this off and it looks really cool.  The only concern I have is how jarring will it feel when the world heals itself over time (which was mentioned as a footnote in one of the demos).  I would hope that the healing occurs over a large expanse of time and gradually instead of everything magically flying back into place.

Additionally I have concerns about how this will lead to greifing.  There was a demo of the Kerran Warrior and Human Mage fighting a rock elemental… and it does some kind of giant slamming attack knocking a hole in the ground and dropping all three to a cavern below the main forest floor of Feerott.  Will players get pissed at each other and knock them down below eventually into the lava on the bottom level of the world?  Fully destructable world is awesome… but I realize there will always be a player willing to grief you, and this seems like an amazing mechanism for doing so.

I could go on and on for hours about the cool features of the game… but like I said at the start you really should just watch the video reveal for yourself.  If you believe the marketing spiel… EQ Next seems like it is going to be the game everyone has ever wanted to play.  Allowing you to just go adventuring in the world and respond to things as they happen around you.  The mobs apparently have storybricks style likes, dislikes and motivations… and the ability to grow a camp to a city over time.  So the world should be  constantly changing around you based on the influence the players have placed upon it.  There are several awesome demos that explain this concept.

The biggest part of the reveal for me is that December of this year we will be getting a taste of Everquest Next with the release of Everquest Next Landmark.  It essentially will give the players an ability to adventure through a procedurally generated world and the ability to build structures on their own private plot of land.  The details were a bit fuzzy but it sounded like they were essentially planning on crowdsourcing much of EQ Next through a series of contests that let them call out to the EQ Next Landmark builder community to help design various constructs of the game.  If they really use EQ Next Landmark as an incubation chamber for new content for EQ Next in general… they might solve the “not enough content” problem that plagues every game.

Essentially over the course of the demonstration I went from annoyed, to interested… to eventually TAKE MY MONEY NOW!!!  No matter how hard I threw money at the screen it never actually seemed to work.  If you are as intrigued as I am… you too can head over to the EQ Next homepage and sign up for beta.  I am really hoping that the fact that I am a long time EQ2 subscriber and a Station Access level member will influence when I get picked in the process.  I want to be playing EQ Minecraft now!  Ultimately I am not sure if this game will completely replace the Rift like games for me… but having a game like this would definitely replace Minecraft for me.

Rift Livestream

I am lazy and since the editor I use to write my blog posts doesn’t support twitch tv… you will just have to click the link here.  Like every Friday, yesterday Trion did their normal live stream, this time about Rift again.  As always they are a glorious rambling mess of Rift gameplay and conversation with the folks in game and on the twitch live chat.  Additionally like always there are little nuggets of information that slip out about what is coming down the pipe.  If you want to see a fully summary, head over to Rift Junkies as they have a pretty good rundown.  Be warned the stream is well over 2 hours long.

One of the cool things coming down the pipe is that they plan on revamping all of the level 50 elite dungeons to update them for level 60 players.  While I have so many mixed feelings about this, because of the crap that WoW continually did in recycling content…  it sounds like they may be doing it the right way.  The new dungeons will be treated like completely unique versions, and as a result the old dungeons will still exist in their former state.  The first of these will be “Twisted Realm of the Fae”, which is a darker more twisted version of the original dungeon.  They were pretty scant on details but I definitely like the direction they are going.

Additionally it sounds like there will be a number of new Chronicles coming out in 2.4, the first of them announced is apparently going to be a 2 man version of Infernal Dawn.  I absolutely love the Chronicles concept because one of the frustrating things about no longer being a raider… is that so much of the storyline content in these games is told over the course of a raid.  Chronicles allow two players to get in and experience the key storyline of a specific raid instance.  Apparently this one will be roughly the same difficulty level as the level 60 Queens Gambit one.

I was kind of disappointed that no more information was mentioned about the Rift 3.0 expansion and when it was slotted to arrive.  It was hinted that we might be seeing a level 60 set of Guild Quests and that would be extremely awesome.  I just hope these open up another three or so quests available to players instead of making it you do the early ones or you do the late ones.  I am still very much in love with Rift again.. and really enjoying the guild and everything it has become over the last few weeks.  So many proud feelings about seeing House Stalwart ride again in all its glory.

Wrapping Up

I got a super late start on the morning… didn’t end up waking up until 10 am… so as a result this came out extremely late as well.  I need to get on with my day and get up and around.  Here is hoping your weekend started a little bit more smoothly than mine.  I had a great night doing our first every guild League of Legends Beginner night.  While there were not that many people who partook, I am hoping if we do it again we will be able to drag more players in the moba madness.  It had been roughly 2 months since I had played, so it was fun breaking back into it.

Abolish Faction Walls

Good morning you happy people out there.  I joked yesterday about opening a real life air rift, but in reality I guess it felt a bit like that.  We managed to get through the storm relatively unscathed, but not everyone did.  Yesterday the report was that roughly 100,000 customers were without power, and in on the drive in there were numerous intersections that were reduced to four way stops.  The neighbor across the street lost the entire fence on the front part of his yard, and the shopping center my favorite game store is in was pretty much demolished by the winds.  It is so odd to have tornadic style damage without the Tornado.

Race and Class Restrictions

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Yesterday Rowan posted a thought provoking pieces on whether or not there should be class and race restrictions in games.  Namely this was spawned by Wildstar, but the question carries over to every game.  Why does it make sense that fanatical characters should be limited by some sort of pseudo real world logic?  In an example he gives… why CAN’T a robot do magic…  isn’t that just imposing some kind of logic on fantasy gaming that doesn’t really exist?  Is it not just as fantastical that humans can perform magic?

Ultimately I am against class and race restrictions…  but even more so I am against faction based restrictions.  My general theory is… that in every situation… ideology never breaks down solely along racial boundaries.  There will always be people that play across the lines and are branded as either Sell-swords at the best, or Traitors at the worst by their own faction.  One of the worst experiences you can have is when a new game comes out… and you are super pumped about one specific race…  only to find out that every single friend you have wants to play the OTHER faction.

My mantra has been anything that gets in the way of you playing with your friends is bad.  Faction based race restrictions get in the way of you playing what you want to play… and also playing with your friends that might have different tastes.  I will go one step further and say that Factions in general… are generally bad, but more so games that try and set up an artificial “red versus blue” faction wall.  That essentially feels like imposing artificial limitations on your players just to solve poor design problems.  If have to rely on polarized faction based combat to keep your game moving, you made some bad decisions somewhere along the process.

Abolish Faction Walls

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Some of the most liberating gaming experiences I have had come from games with much more flexible factional boundaries.  The Everquest series probably takes the cake for its ability to give the player malleable faction alignments.  Essentially you start out as either aligned as an Evil race or a Good race… and that sets up certain default racial relations that you have with other factions in the world.  Given the time and the inclination… you can perform tasks that will alter these boundaries through lots and lots of player faction work.

Iksar for example started off hated by everything and could do business nowhere but the neutral Nexus and Cabilis their home city.  However I had a friend who through lots of work managed to become maximum reputation with the Halflings… and he was treated as a favored guest in their territory.  I myself took my Half Elf ranger which is natively a good aligned race… and managed to get him the same reputation with the Evil Erudite city of Paineel.  This experience of letting the player dictate their alliances through their interactions with the world is the best possible scenario I have seen.  Sadly… no one since has adopted this model.

In Everquest 2 you had something similar… defacto good vs evil racial set up… but over the course of the game you could decide to betray your home faction and begin gaining rep with the other.  While this was not as rich and robust as the Everquest system… it was still a far better choice than the archaic “red versus blue” mentality.  Additionally no where in the Everquest realm are you ever limited in who you can group with, communicate with, and trade with.  All players can interact regardless of their personal choices.

Faction as Fiction

Singlehandedly one of the best choices Trion has ever made with Rift is to release the fabled “Faction as Fiction” patch abolishing strict faction walls in that game.  While not as open as a game like Everquest that was designed NOT to have firm factions, it was a great way to “hack” that functionality into an existing game.  Essentially in one pass they allowed Guardian and Defiant characters to group and guild freely, and set up a new neutral three faction based PVP system called Conquest.  Players essentially act as mercenaries for three different political factions and wage proxy battles for them.

I feel like this decision point more than anything has allowed House Stalwart to grow so much recently.  Many of the players that we were pulling in, tried it shortly after the release of Rift, but felt limited by the race and faction based choices.  We were a Defiant guild, but many players just feel more comfortable with the kinder, gentler, greener… Guardian starter experience.  Being able to tell them that “faction no longer matters” has almost become a rallying call as I get new folks invested in the game again.

I cannot help but think that games like World of Warcraft and Wildstar would not be far better served if they threw off the mantle of “red versus blue” and embraced letting players choose their own alignments.  While we have extremely rabid Horde and Alliance players… I was one of those players that had friends on both sides of the pond.  When Stalwart originally launched with the release of WoW, we had an Alliance Guild on Argent Dawn and a Horde Guild on Silverhand.  The intent was to play in both places, so that we could stay together… but over time the majority greatly favored Alliance… leaving a skeleton crew manning the Horde bulwarks.

So instead of having like Fifty players all happy and acting together… we had 35 happy alliance players, and 15 unhappy horde players that felt abandoned.  Any design choice that forces potentially pits players against their friends… is ultimately a bad one for the sake of building long lasting communities.  Had we been able to BE an Alliance guild, but also had a number of “Horde” race sell-swords… I feel as though this would not have been a problem.  The players didn’t care about the faction… they cared about the available races to play… and ultimately went to the side that they could play what they wanted to.

Looking Forward

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One of the biggest detractors for me in everything I have heard about Elder Scrolls Online is the fact that once again there will be three distinct and insular faction groups.  While choosing which faction to align to was easy for me… since I always play a Nord, Argonian or a Dunmer…  it will not be quite so easy for my friends.  I have a few friends that prefer Altmer for example… and I tend to go out of my way to kill them when playing Skyrim.  The Elder Scrolls is a setting where there have NEVER been absolute race based factional boundaries.  There are always Nords that are willing to sell their blade to the highest bidder, as well as Altmer that throw off their heritage and adventure freely in the world.

My biggest hope is that there will be a way for my friends to be in Ebonheart Pact where I plan on building the House Stalwart guild… but be able to play whatever they want to play.  This will ultimately determine whether or not a Stalwart guild succeeds in this game.  I realize that this is probably just a pipe dream, because everything that we have seen to this point seems to enforce the strict racial boundaries.  But I guess I can hope… I realize factional boundaries are easy for companies to enforce, that they greatly simplify many aspects of the game.  However this does not stop me from feeling like they are bad for the players.

ESO is still a long ways off, so I have the smallest glimmer of hope that they might rethink the firm racial limits, however Wildstar feels as though it is right around the corner and has set up the same tired walls.  We are going through the same problems with that game as we have every other faction based title.  Granted I am only really mildly interested in the game…  but various Stalwarts are EXTREMELY interested.  The problem is… each of us seems to natively align ideologically with one faction or the other… and currently it the sentiments seem to split down the middle.  All of this is generally because we prefer to play one type of race over another. They could really serve to take a book from Trion and make guilds transcend factional boundaries.

While we are on pipedreams…  one of the biggest flaws in The Secret World is the fact that Cabals are faction locked.  This game is so liberating in certain fashions…  you can group with any player on any faction or shard.  However the fact that their guild system is limited based on a specific faction really throws a monkey wrench in this whole openness scenario.  It has essentially forced guilds to manage three separate factional units… and then try and communicate between them using server channels.  Everything would have been far simpler had they just said that cabals were free floating.  I really hope this is a decision they revisit in the near future.

Wrapping Up

Well it is that time again… I have wasted another perfectly good morning rambling on.  I had intended to talk about all the awesomeness that we did last night as a guild, but that yarn can wait for another day.  On a related note however.. I totally suggest you check out Fynralyl’s blog post about her entry into the guild and reentry into Rift in general.  Warms my heart to see that folks are enjoying themselves in an environment I have pulled together.  Any questions I had as to whether or not forming a House Stalwart in Rift was a good idea… have long since gone out the window.  I hope you guys have a great day, and that the weekend comes quickly.

Sony: Best Troll Ever

Last night was a truly odd occurrence for me.  I played a quick league of legends bots game with friends, and piddled around for a bit in Dragon’s Prophet managing to get level 20.  All of this was essentially “busy work” as for my inner circle of friends, the main event of the evening was the Sony Entertainment Pre-E3 stream.  After seeing it… there really is not much else I can talk this morning other than just how amazing the show was when contrasted with the Microsoft presentation earlier in the day.

Throwing the Xbone

 

Thankfully we have a lovely abridged version of the Xbox E3 conference that arrived on YouTube over night so I can link here for you all.  Basically the Microsoft conference was a massive improvement over the reveal event and its obsession with television.  They actually seemed like they might care about games… but then unfortunately they presented me with a bunch of titles I really don’t care about.  All of their big reveals seemed extremely unexciting.  While I am watching this I am desperately scanning the list for that one game that makes me want to own a console system.

Out of all of the games shown… the only title that stuck out for me… was Killer Instinct.  Don’t get me wrong, the idea of a new Killer Instinct game is pretty massive, as the original one was probably hands down my favorite fighting game ever.  I was like a kid in the candy store a few months back when I managed to successfully get the Killer Instinct emulator running and got to revisit the original arcade experience.  The problem is I just don’t feel like this is enough of a reason for me to spend $500 on an ugly black box.

Coming away from the presentation I still got the feeling that Microsoft doesn’t really care about games that much anymore.  I still feel like they intend this to be some convergence device that causes people to change the way they interact with television.  That is fine, but I already have a Roku… and it cost me way less than $500.  Most of their killer features just are not that killer for me.  I could give a shit about sports, and I never really seriously watch live television.  So combined with games I don’t really care about… and making a big deal out of games that have been on the PC for over two years…  I just really do not feel like Microsoft’s vision is where I want to be.

The Next Generation

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I saw a tweet last night that essentially wondered what it was like to be Sony yesterday, having an entire day to soak in the Microsoft E3 presentation… all the while knowing that you were just about to nuke them back into the stone age.  It certainly must have been an amazing day for everyone involved with the PS4 in any way.  For as awkward and confusing at times as the Microsoft conference was… the Sony PS4 event was that much polished and keyed to the demographic that matters to them…  gamers.  There was an obligatory section giving someone floor time from the Sony entertainment division, showing off the movies and music libraries…  but every other component of the show was about their serious line up of games.

For as nonplussed as I was about the Microsoft Lineup… I saw game after game that I want to play right now.  The Order was this amazing steam punk meets diesel punk meets Victorian monster hunter game.  The demo that was shown was an in game engine rendered trailer, and that really doesn’t matter… because it looks far better than most fully CG trailers today.  In fact that was a huge theme with the show as a hole.  Almost everything took painstaking effort to mention that what you were seeing was in game or in engine rendered footage.  The end result is almost movie quality animation and brilliant special effects, there was just an unbelievable amount of eye candy being shown.

The Bumps

This is not to say that the presentation did not have its share of hiccups last night.  Ubisoft decided to go completely blind and do their demos as a person on stage actually playing the game.  They demoed both Assassins Creed VI and Watchdogs this way… and in both cases… AC especially they had some freezes in gameplay.  Watchdogs however that has been in development far longer… had a few moments of slowdown but no lockups.  This is the risk of actually doing anything live, because anytime I have had to demo software…  it never goes 100% smoothly.  I know the feels the guys on stage were going through… so to some extent this softens the blow of the fact that they had lockups.

Additionally there were some pretty awkward presenters…  but nothing nearly as awkward as the Microsoft “trash talk” examples… and the really bizarre rape analogy as the man and woman were playing Killer Instinct together.  Seriously Microsoft… what made you think it was okay to say something like that?  At first I was like man… this is awesome an actual woman on stage playing a game… that is not a super model.  Then you reduce her to a whipping boy as some jackass trash talks her and tells her to lay down and it will be over soon?  Xbox One:  The Console of Choice for Date Rapists everywhere!

Sony: Best Troll Ever

 

Anyways… essentially none of the bumps in the road for Sony were anything nearly as egregious as what we have seen from Microsoft.  The big takeaway for me from the Sony conference is the fact that the games look like they are going to be amazing.  Sony took every possible opportunity to troll Microsoft and make them feel bad for their current choices.  The above is a great video highlighting one of the biggest features announced last night.  Essentially you will be able to trade games for the PS4 the same as you could for any console previously.  No awkward restrictions… you can buy used games and swap titles with your friends the same as you have been up to this point.

This is a huge boon for Sony, as the lack of used game support was likely to completely rule me out of this generation of consoles.  I hate Game Stop probably more than most people, and I refuse to give them any business at all…  however I still buy most of my console titles second hand.  Very rarely is there a title for the consoles that makes me want to go out into the store and spend $60 on it day one.  Instead I love the scavenger hunt that is going to pawn shops, and more equitable secondhand game stores like Vintage Stock, Game Xchange and Half Price Books.  So the ability for a modern console to still give me that hunting for a bargain experience… is a huge boon.

Additionally the PS4 does not require an internet connection to work… however admittedly a lot of the features they were showing off in games were connected features.  The console though has been designed to work in a connection agnostic state, which is again is a huge boon for Sony.  There is no creepy Kinect eye always watching you, and with the recent flood of security concerns…  giving Microsoft a box in your house that was always passively watching what you did was more than a little dystopian for me.  I think Sony embraces the concept that actual gamers really don’t care much about minority report gimmickry… they just want to play the damned games reliably.

The biggest troll of the evening however was announced towards the end of the evening.  The PS4 looks like a better console in every possible way, and have far better developer support with new and interesting titles.  Playstation Plus is still far superior to Microsoft’s crappy gold program.. even after the announcement of getting 2 old titles per month.  All of this goodness… and Sony drops the bomb in that it is $100 less than the Xbox One.  While still expensive… the $399 price tag, and all the games that I want to play on it… really make this a buy for me.  I may not get it new at launch, but I will definitely be picking it up eventually.  I almost felt at the end of the night… that Sony should just drop the mic after the announcement and walk away…  because they schooled Microsoft in every conceivable way.

Best Thing About The Show

 

While I am experiencing a massive resurgence of console gaming right now and am really looking forward to the next generation of console games…  I am still very much a PC gamer at heart, and namely an MMO Gamer.  Last night Sony got a major coup in that they announced that Elder Scrolls Online was coming to the Playstation 4 and would be available Spring 2014.  Almost immediately Bethesda started in with the damage control and released the trailer above… showing that it would be coming to PS4, Xbox One, PC and Mac all within that Spring 2014 time frame.  Elder Scrolls Online is the game I am looking forward to the most of all the titles on the horizon… and we finally have a projected timeframe.

The new footage looks absolutely amazing, and it includes some really solid first person game play.  I’ve never had a problem with the idea of third person… and when playing Skyrim I switch back and forth between first and third regularly depending upon the situation.  Having first never really seemed like a must have… but this is a huge boon for the Elder Scrolls purist crowd.  Additionally the first person graphic for that Dragon Knight chain attack thingy looked amazing.  This only further cements my desire to play one…  I want to be Scorpion from Mortal Kombat.  I wonder if like WoW… I can find an add-on that says “Get Over Here!” every time I press the attack.

Wrapping Up

I really need to get on with my morning.  Today is trash day, and I have to finish gathering it, as well as give my cat some medication… and get on the road.  The broad takeaway for the night is that Sony absolutely obliterated Microsoft.  There is next to nothing they can do to recover in my eyes from the brutal beating they received at the hands of the Playstation 4.  I want to start stockpiling cash now… so that I can pick one up in December when the console launches.  I hope you have an amazing day… and I hope I did not offend any stauch Microsoft fans out there.

Responsible Adult Time

Today is going to shape up to be a stressful one.  My boss overdid it coming back from surgery, and will be out of the office today.  As a result I will be acting as his proxy, attending whatever meetings he would have had to attend.  The beginning of these is having to lead an 8:30 meeting… so I really have to watch the time this morning as I blog.  Once again I am under an NDA as stated last night, so there is not much I can say about what happened last night,  save for as to say that it was an awesome evening.

Instant Ports

Over the years in EQ2 travel has gone from something that took large amounts of real time, to something that mostly involves knowing which travel networks connect in which zones.  For example I tend to use Enchanted Lands as a switching station, since the Druid Ring, Wizard Spire and Travel bells are all very close to each other.  I find traversing zones extremely quick, and so long as you have a base idea of what travel options are available in zones near where you are going you can get there in a matter of a few ports.

Apparently however this was not easy enough.  Based on an article I read yesterday, it looks like they will be offering the ability to teleport to one of the travel network destinations from anywhere in the world for an outlay of station cash.  This will likely replace the portable travel bells that already exist on the station cash store.  The portable travel bells were nice for emergency situations, and this will likely fill the same bill.

I feel like however, this is a change mostly for players without a guild large enough to host the various travel network vendors.  Between my port to home city and port to guild hall, it feels like I always have an option to get back to the travel network rapidly.  What it also does is make it so that players no longer need to memorize the directory of “connecting flights” that get you from one travel network to another.  There are times I cannot remember just which network goes to this expansion zone or that. 

Ultimately it will be interesting to see just how much station cash it costs to port like this.  I am completely fine with new conveniences, so long as they do not remove the existing networks.  Travel after many years arrived at a point where it made quite a bit of sense and that you could pretty much avoid all the boats entirely.  I don’t ever want to return to a time when intra-zone travel is a real-world time sink.

Exploration and Crafting

 

Yesterday Zenimax released a pretty cool video for the Elder Scrolls Online covering the gathering, crafting and exploration systems.  The fact that you can loot the barrels on the docks for crafting materials seems cool, but the highlight of the video is that they get close to what looks like a Nirnroot… and it makes the Nirnroot sound.  There were so many times I would be wandering across Skyrim, and I hear that sound. and immediately go into find the root mode.  The fact that they have carried that sound effect over… gives me hope that all the other little nuanced things will be there as well.

I am happy to see a lockpicking system in the game as well.  Even though it looks like the Oblivion system, which I was absolutely horrible at…  it is awesome to see it.  I am more aligned to the easy mode lock picking of Skyrim and the Fallout games.  I love chests in games, and even more so I am excited that they may be difficult to find.  I hated that in WoW chests were just thrown out in the middle of nowhere, in places that made no sense to have one.  The chest showing up in the hollowed tree in the video seems about right.  I am all about games rewarding exploration.

Spam Mail Personified

 

I saw this video and thought it was pretty amazing…  especially when it gets to the point of the fake virus/speed software that takes over your machine.  I have had to rebuild our neighbors laptop at least five times because they managed to get that stupid faux virus malware.  I remember one time my mom called me, after being 3 screens deep into an obvious phishing site… because it finally sounded strange to her.  I told her that if she had already clicked submit a few times, it was all over but the crying.  Maybe this will go viral enough to reach our parents and neighbors…  one can only hope.

Luchador Power!

I mentioned this the other day, but I am massively hooked on the game Guacamelee!, the exclamation point is part of the name… that is just how awesome it is.  Essentially at its core is a Metroid/Castlevania game with Mexican Luchador flair.  This is one of the newer cross buy titles, in that you get it both on PS3 and your Vita.  Up until this point I really had zero interest in a Vita.  Don’t get me wrong I like my PSP, but I rooted it and turned it into a portable emulation machine, since that was a far more compelling use than the games actually were.

Also of note… Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is my favorite game of all time.  The fact that I could be playing Guacamelee! on a portable device has done more to make me lust after the Vita goodness than anything has to this point.  Additionally my little inner circle of friends has been going on and on about Persona 4 Golden…  I will admit I am also curious about that madness. 

Now I will begin my search through craigslist for a used unit…  because I just cannot ever bring myself to pay full price for a new console when there are so many used ones out there in need of good homes.  They totally need to make gaming adoption commercials… with Sarah McLachlan shaming us for even existing and not giving all our money to all the consoles.  I have 3 rescue cats and 3 rescue ferrets… and still I cannot bear to watch those commercials…  just think what it will do for gaming consoles.

Responsible Adult Time

So I need to wrap up this madcap episode of “Bel finds shit to talk about that doesn’t break and NDA!!!”.  Just think you are going to get several more of these since I am under NDA until at least Monday.  I need to go finish getting ready, gather some breakfast, and arrive at the office with enough time to print all the things and mentally prepare myself for the super important meeting.  There are days I hate being a responsible adult, but there comes a time when you are actually though of as a leader in your organization…  which scares me.  I hope you all have a great day…  one that doesn’t involve you being responsible!!!

Player Taxonomy

This is the sixteenth post in my experimental “post every morning” scheme, and it represents the first true roadblock.  Up to this point, I had been posting about whatever was happening in my life, and namely whatever games I played the previous night.  The problem I have right now is that while I have plenty of awesome things to talk about from last night, I can’t speak a word about any of it.  I may or may not be under a pretty sizeable NDA.  So as a result I will be trying to find interesting things to talk about otherwise.

Player Taxonomy

I was having a discussion the other day with a good friend and we got into the whole dividing players into groups concept.  We often times have this notion that players are either hardcore or casual, and depending on which side of the divide you are on that other term becomes a slur against what you don’t enjoy.  He presented an interesting take on the divide, in that players are made up of multiple parts of different drives.  He broke things into 3 drives, but I have since expanded it into 4.

  • Casual – These players tend to play games on a very peripheral level.  They may play multiple titles, but not really get heavily involved in any one game.  They do not perform large amounts of research, even if it is a game they play very often.
  • Core – These players tend to get extremely invested in one or more games.  They may play multiple titles, but are more likely to dig into the theory and gameplay of one specific game.  They are likely to do large amounts of research on technique and related information.
  • Social – These players tend to be focused on the social aspect of gaming.  They are in games because their friends are playing them.  Their gaming experience revolves around interaction with their friends, and if enough of a critical mass of their community leaves the game they are likely to do so as well.
  • Solo – These players tend to prefer to do things alone, and while they may associate with communities they do so mostly for the benefits that being a member provides.  They will participate in group activities if there is a large benefit to doing so, but afterwards they often wander back off to doing solo content.

Essentially the theory is that we are all made up of these building blocks.  For example I tend to be Social-Core by nature in online games, but I will have large periods of being Solo-Core depending on if I am playing a game with a preformed community or not.  I crave the social connection of a community in an online game, however in the absence of it I tend to withdraw and not reach out to strangers.  I have tried to be Casual about games in the past but it rarely works, as I almost always end up digging deep into the minutia, figuring out mob spawn patterns, what the best drops are, and which areas I should be hunting.

There is a line of thinking that says that labels in gaming are a bad thing.  I agree to some extent, because the old social versus hardcore debate only really tells part of the story.  However the truth is that different kinds of players are motivated by different forces.  We need some kind of judgment free taxonomy to help understand what kind of a player someone is, and what they are looking for out of the online gaming experience.  I cannot claim the above is a new idea, as I got it from a conversation with a friend… and he cannot claim his ideas are new either because this is something that has been kicking around in the marketing side of the industry for several years.

I feel these building blocks do a pretty good job of modeling opposing forces, namely social tendencies versus solo tendencies, and casual tendencies versus core tendencies.  All that said I feel it is totally viable for someone to be social-casual-core striking a balance between really digging into a game and playing them on a superficial level.  The thing I have noticed over the years, is that most of the players that claim to be casual… myself included really dig deep into whatever game they happen to be playing.  They just may play lots and lots of games at the same time or serially.  I think it is an interesting discussion at least, and as a guild leader I have always tried to understand the drives of the people that I am trying to mold towards a specific goal.

Journey to Coldharbour

 

With all my personal posts and game log type posting, I have not had a chance to really mention this.  At the beginning of the month Zenimax released this video about Coldharbour the domain of Molag Bal.  I have to say right off the bat the footage from the video looks amazing.  I think it is awesome just how vastly different Coldhabour looks and feels from Deadlands the Oblivion plane belonging to Mehunes Dagon we experienced in Elder Scrolls VI: Oblivion.  It seems like the Dark Anchors that are mentioned are going to be similar to the Mehunes Oblivion gates.

I really look forward to seeing how all of this will really work in game play.  It seems like the anchors drop down from the sky, so I am wondering if they will be “Rift like” events that occur around the map, or static spawns.  The Elder Scrolls games have always had a certain measure of dynamic content, so it would be cool if the Anchors were this games answer to “Rifts”.  There really isn’t enough in the video to really make a call one way or another, but it is a super cool concept.  Every time they release one of these videos, I just want to play ANY Elder Scrolls game I can get my hands on.  Why hullo there Skyrim!

Wildstar: Devspeak Movement

 

So I am still on the fence about whether or not I care about Wildstar.  Firstly I have not had a great track record with me trying to get deeply involved in any Science Fiction based MMO.  They are awesome for awhile, but they seem to lack the stickiness with me that fantasy MMOs have had.  Secondly no matter how hard I try, I cannot seem to view this as anything other than a much higher resolution World of Warcraft.  There is a moment in this video that I immediately thought the guy was falling into Area 52 out in Netherstorm.  All of that said, the game does look much nicer in every department than WoW.

Range of motion in a video game is a huge thing.  If the combat animations feel clunky, the combat itself will feel clunky… as goes with the jumps, rolls, running animations etc.  This is a beautifully animated game, and the video really showcases that.  The big take away I always have from one of these videos however is just how amazing their Marketing and Communities are at engaging the public.  They do a phenomenal picture of painting a picture of the game and setting up an attitude that makes you want to play it.  I feel like this is going to be one of those titles that I will need to play before I can decide if I am going to look into it very seriously.

Aatrox, The Darkin Blade

Another nifty tidbit of information from yesterday, is that Riot games announced their next champion for League of Legends.  Basically it looks to be a badass AD melee character with life draining abilities.  Similar to Mordekaiser he uses a health spending mechanic to cast abilities.  You can click the picture, or this link to see a full breakdown of his abilities.  At first glance he kind of feels like a fusion of Mordekaiser and Zac, so will be interesting to see how he plays.

Initially I thought… hell yeah, badass demon dude with a molten sword and wings!  But ultimately I am really not sure if this is a “Bel” character or not.  So far I have not really enjoyed playing Mordekaiser, because his mechanic feels super “fiddly”.  I don’t really like champions that are very “do this one thing, so you can do this other thing or you die” in their ability set up.  I admit it, I am totally a barbarian and like simple gameplay…  think Garen, Wukong and Darius.  When I play a game, I am about as subtle as dropping a piano on someone.  I feel like even though he looks awesome, and I like his abilities (other than the health spending mechanic) he will definitely be a “try before I buy” character.

Adventures in Legally Viable Posting

So I have managed to weave together a post this morning after all, and this makes me happy.  I was afraid that my certain restrictions would dry up the well of rambling, but I have managed to grab a few things I thought was cool out of the air and cram them into a single posting.  Not that my nightly rundown posts are all that exciting in the first place, but hopefully folks won’t mind these posts every now and then when I am bound not to talk about the previous night.  I hope you guys have a great Friday, and that it is the gateway to a really amazing weekend.  We are going to be super busy this weekend finishing up the game loft, so wish me luck!

That Rift Moment

Yesterday was a fairly stark contrast to Saturday, but a pretty welcome one.  After milling around the house and blogging, and my wife doing the same we decided to embark upon a journey to Joplin.  We didn’t really make it out of the house until around noon, but by then the 50* temperature had warmed into the high 60s making my choice to wear shorts more justified.

Cameras at the ready

We brought with us our cameras, but they did not leave the car for the most part.  We roamed around for a few hours but didn’t really find much of anything up there that “inspired” us.  It had been a few months since our last trip to Joplin, so we had plenty of things to do as we ran around town.  But for whatever reason, each time we talked about stopping and roaming around, we were both decidedly meh on the topic.

I feel like at some point we need to take a trip to a nature preserve or something of the sort.  That seems to be what both of us are leaning heavily towards wanting to shoot now.  The recent round of thunderstorms has finally caused Oklahoma to green up, and I think both of us want to take pictures of that before summer starts to brown it again.  We have a list of places that we have talked about, but honestly we need to just do it.  Our problem yesterday was that our default weekend shoes are sandals, which are not exactly conducive to stomping through the weeds.

Return to Moriban

2013-04-28_225551

When we finally made it home for the evening I contemplated jumping back into the Neverwinter, but all day I had thought about how much fun I was having with the new build in Rift.  I am super glad that I did, because a short while after logging in one of my favorite people showed up.  Plasmodia is like this friendly mad scientist, and one of my highlights of playing Rift with Machiavelli’s Cats.  Her and her husband Marklaar were both super awesome people to hang out with, and apparently had missed me.

So over the course of last night I hung out and chatted, and generally did not pay much attention to what I was doing.  This is a good thing when a game supports this.  I happily ground my way through packs of mobs, loosely following whatever objective was highlighted on my minimap.  I generally tend to play really poorly when I am chatting with someone, as a result I used to run laps in Dalaran while I had to talk to someone for any length of time.

That “Rift” Moment

2013-04-28_200331I am no stranger to doing stupid things, but at one point last night it was getting a bit excessive.  I was absolutely getting my ass handed to me, enough that I was starting to question this new miracle spec I had stumbled into.  It was round about this point that I remembered…  I have experienced this before.  Sure enough I looked up at my buff bar and noticed that not  single one of my 9 buffs was currently active.  Upon cycling through the buffs it was like I was a whole new person once more.

I would love to say, that this was the first time I had encountered this problem.  However anytime I go back to Rift for awhile, I ultimately end up running around like a buffless noob.  I’ve heard that there are mods that will remind you that you are “naked”, so I guess it might be time for me to investigate one of those.  Overall though I had a blast just hanging out and chatting, and while I was on guild chat seemed to liven up.

Small Group of Friends

I had noticed that Alea Iacta Est Rift was certainly more quiet than I remember, and last night talking to Plas I found out the reasons.  Turns out that a good chunk of the AIE/Cats folks wandered off into Defiance and are happily shooting mutants there.  Luckily I was able to play enough of it during Alpha and Beta to realize that it really was not the game for me.  As much as I love the concept of a Science Fiction MMO, the result never ends up being something I really enjoy…  at least for any length of time.

Another issue that is going on right now is that it seems the officery types are AWOL as well.  I have a feeling that some of the Defiance folks will be burning out on the game, as a good number of individuals on my twitter and google plus feed already have.  My hope is that some activity in Rift will draw them back.  Plas and I plotted to start doing Wednesday night dungeon groups, and I believe we will be having the first of these this week.  Right now that is likely going to be me, Plas and her hubby Mark and then anyone else we can tempt from the guild.  If you play on Deepwood and are super good natured, and friendly to absolute nubitude…  look me up.

Beauty of Dawn

 

Beauty of Dawn – Malukah – Elder Scrolls Online

So in a completely different direction, I had to post this.  I seriously cannot go a single day without listening to it.  This is Beauty of Dawn, a song by the already famous Malukah that apparently she teamed up with Zenimax Online Studios to create.  From my understanding, she wrote this song after an extended play test of Elder Scrolls Online.  Whatever the inspiration, it is completely amazing and so rich and evocative.  The song just feels laced with lore, and hopefully when the game releases we will understand all the things she is talking about.

If you could not tell, I am kinda a huge fan of the Elder Scrolls Setting.  I first got into them with Daggerfall, and have been a rabid consumer of all things Tamriel ever since.  There have been so many times while playing Oblivion and Skyrim, that I thought to myself…  man this would be really amazing if I could just play this with my friends.  My hope is that Elder Scrolls Online ends up being just that… Skyrim with friends.  I realize there are certain MMO trappings that you have to have to make the genre survive, but so long as the core gameplay translates I will be happy.

This is day four of my experiment, and if you have made it this far I want to thank you for reading.  The daily posting thing is still not extremely comfortable, but I look forward to doing it each morning.  I find sitting down and rattling out my thoughts relaxing.  Hopefully over time, it will even be useful to the community… though I sincerely doubt that.  This is going to be an insanely busy week at work, so I think I will need this little morning sanctuary to keep me sane.  Hope you guys have an awesome day, and awesome week if you don’t check back in before then.