Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Friday, December 22, 2006

4.0

I received my final grades for my first semester of college. I came out on top with a 4.0! Five classes and five A's. I received 100% in two of the classes, 98% in two, and a hair over 95% in the last class.

I guess going back to school after all these years wasn't as hard as I thought.

YFClinkexchange Directory by YFC

Monday, December 18, 2006

Gold Sellers Love this Blog!

It seems that my World of Warcraft TCG post yesterday has stirred a World of Warcraft MMORPG gold seller to offer to pay me for advertisement space on this blog. Maybe someone should inform this gold seller there is no gold in the WoW TCG? Anyways I have reposted the comment below for your enjoyment.

Dear Sir:

After browsing so many websites, we are impressed by your site's enhanced design and navigation.

Brogame.com is a leading provider of virtual currency provided to the Massively Multiplayer online community with over 1 year of experience. Till now, we have served over 100,000 Happy game players. In the process, we have built good cooperation and friendship with customers while winning good reputation from the fellow traders. Owing to the large increase of my business, and the consequent additional strain which this put upon me, I have deemed it advisable to have assistance with your company. We hope very much to promote our site by advertising in your site.

You can reach us on any of the email addresses below. Please allow up to 24 hours for us to respond.

Email: nesta.brogame@gmail.com
MSN: nesta_brogame@hotmail.com
yahoo message: zhao_david2002
icq: 383220419
aol: nestabrogame

We look forward to receiving your favorable and prompt reply.

We hope that this letter is the first step to establishment of a long
and pleasant relationship.

Sincerely

Nesta
Brogame
Feel free to contact Nesta at any of the aforementioned contacts :)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A View from the Bottom: Losing, Learning, and Loving the World of Warcraft TCG

Yesterday, I competed in my first World of Warcraft TCG tournament. It was Sealed Pack format with an entry fee of $30 which netted each player six boosters and a hero. There was a total of eight players with an additional two interested parties who had to be turned away due to a lack of card supplies which has been an issue for the WoW TCG. Hopefully starting early this week the promised shipments from Upper Deck will hit stores and product will be freely available. Until then there is a very limited supply.

Six Boosters

After opening my six boosters I quickly realized that my card pool was a bit weak. I had only a single protector which was the five cost Horde ally, Kulan Earthguard. Other key allies I pulled for the Horde were 2x Voss Treebender, 1x Vesh'ral, 1x Ya'mon, 1x Hur Shieldsmasher, and 1x Confessor Mildred. Key allies for the Alliance I received were 1x Parvink, 2x Maxum Ironbrew, and 1x Ryn Dreamstrider. As you can see I lacked many of the important 1-2 cost allies that are essential early game plays.

On the ability side of cards I pulled a scattershot of rares and uncommons. Unfortunately none of them provided much synergy for any deck builds I felt comfortable playing. Below are the abilities organized by class.

Druid: 1x Predatory Strikes, 2x Bear Form, 1x Mark of the Wild, 1x Natural Selection, and 1x Healing Touch.
Rogue: 1x Dismantle, 1x Gouge, 2x Coup de Grace, 2x Stealth, and 1x Eviscerate
Warrior: 1x Rend, 1x Mocking Blow, and 1x Demoralizing Shout
Paladin: 1x Cleanse, 1x Holy Light, and 1x Retribution Aura

The other class abilities I nabbed were too few to build any decks with and in the case of the Warlock and Priest I only received a single ability for each. Some useful neutral abilities I received were 2x Exhaustion, 1x Burn Away, 2x Interest You in a Pint?, 1x Call of the Spirit, and 1x Vanquish.

Looking at the lists above it seems as though I had a pretty good start for a Rogue deck, but when it came to weapons, items, and armor I received little to nothing. 1x Barov Peasant Caller, 1x Hide of the Wild, 1x Truesilver Breastplate and 1x Chromatic Cloak. The only weapon was a single Iceblade Hacker.

I drew an array of quests with 2x Blueleaf Tubers, 1x It's a Secret to Everybody, 1x Zapped Giants, 1x In Dreams, 2x Chasing A-me 01, 1x Into the Maw of Madness, and 2x Big Game Hunter.

My Deck

With the lack of protectors and the lack of a weapon I decided against playing a Rogue deck. My first instinct was to take the Truesilver Breastplate and play either a Paladin or Warrior. I felt that both of those choices were weak considering my only weapon being the Iceblade Hacker and the likely proliferation of protectors that ready themselves.

My final choice was to go with the Horde Druid, Thangal. Sadly it is one of the few classes I have no experience playing.

Deck List:

(will post deck list when I get some time)

I strongly felt that I could get ahead early with Bear Form and Predatory Strikes. Once ahead I hoped to be able to control the board with Voss Treebender, Kulan Earthguard, and Confessor Mildred. To finish games I felt that Mark of The Wild, Vesh'ral, Barov Peasant Caller, and Hur Shieldsmasher could serve very well.

Basically my deck was meant to suck up early game damage while removing early game weenies. The decks mid game was to focus on healing and getting the cards needed for a final push. To finish there was armor removal followed by ferocity attackers with Mark of the Wild. Once the dust settled Blueleaf Tubers could be used to cycle my graveyard back into my library which potentially gave me a chance at drawing both of my heals again.

How It Played

In reality I did not play the deck how I planned. I rushed allies and abilities out when I saw early game openings and found myself playing from the draw almost every game. Bear Form and Predatory Strikes never factored into play. Even with mulligans I never had more than one in my opening hand and only once did I manage to get both into play which was trumped by a Crippling Poison keeping Thangal exhausted. The whole idea of having six damage on the opposing hero by the end of turn three never developed.

I really blame myself for playing the deck poorly. I thought it out well, but executed it horribly. Every game I quickly went ahead, but never once did I finish the deal. My best game pushed a Gorebelly deck down to five life at which point I stalled out and started eating nine damage a turn. Even with both heals in hand I couldn't survive long enough to draw anything useful.

What I Learned

The biggest thing I learned about Sealed play in the WoW TCG is that you need to play the best cards you pull. Building a deck around those key cards will equal success. The top players at the tournament were finished with their builds quickly because they analyzed their best cards and grabbed the appropriate hero.

With a minimum deck size of 30 I found that playing exactly 30 works well, but certain card pools almost demand that you play every single card you can. If you get a ton of good allies you probably will play them all. A good weapon or armor piece can demand a certain hero or the inclusion of more cards.

As far as Quest selection goes I found that eight in a deck of 30 was efficient if you have eight that benefit your build. Otherwise it makes more sense to choose utility cards that could serve a purpose in certain situations or be dumped as a resource when they are just taking up space.

What disappointed me about the Sealed format was that it seemed whoever pulled the better equipment cards had the upper hand. Having key armor pieces such as Golem Skull Helm or Draconian Deflector played a far larger roll than any other single card. Getting a weapon such as Brain Hacker or Flame Wrath really unbalanced the field. With the current large number of rares and the fact they are restricted by class it feels as though you can easily get screwed in Sealed play.

As far as playing your deck in a Sealed tournament it felt as though everyone held onto cards instead of going for early game leads. I fell into the trap of seeing the early game openings and leaving myself wide open to late game stalls. Watching your board control disappear in a couple turns and realizing you have no backup is a sad lesson to learn. Knowing that I could and should have played better is a tough pill to swallow.

Even though I failed to win a single game during the tournament and finished in last place I still love the WoW TCG. I just have to suck it up and continue to practice. There will be plenty of chances to compete in the future.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Blizzard says: "Hope you played last week!"

Blizzard is making a "hotfix" to the rate at which honor is gained in World of Warcraft 2.0.1's new PvP honor system! From the official forums.
Now that the Before the Storm content patch has been live for the past week, we’ve had a better opportunity to track the rate at which players are accumulating honor, and subsequently how easy it's been to obtain honor rewards. In gauging these elements, we've determined that the effort required to obtain honor rewards is more trivial than we had intended. As a result, during today's maintenance we’ve applied a hotfix that reduced the amount of honor gained by approximately 30%. This change allows the honor rewards to be obtained at rate that better reflects the item’s in-game value.

The reason that we decided to reduce the rate of honor gain rather than simply raise the honor cost of each item, is to ensure that everyone’s time and effort participating in PvP since the patch is not diminished. As this change will only affect future honor accumulation. - Nethaera
So I hope you played last week when epic PvP gear was on EZ mode. If not they are offering you another week at only a 30% decrease! Get in while it's cheap!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Making the List

It seems that I have made the list as one of the top 100 blogs for MMO gamers!

Heartless Gamer is in a respectable 86th place with the likes of Grimwell, Gamespot, and Raph Koster.

I can't take all the credit for this because it is the readers that make the blogging world turn. Without readers would our blogs get read? Nope. So thank you everyone who reads and subscribes to this blog in some form. Also a special thanks to the games and their developers that give us so much to talk about.

Friday, December 08, 2006

World of Warcraft 2.0.1 patch proves players couldn't play in the first place!

The massive World of Warcraft 2.0 patch is upon us and is causing shock waves across the WoW community! In this stunning turn of events for the market leading MMORPG...

...


...

... just wait! This just in! WoW always has issues on patch day! EVERY GOD DAMN MMORPG TO DATE HAS ISSUES ON PATCH DAY! Welcome to the "real world" and now let us continue with our regular scheduled programming.

There were some significant changes with the patch and I'm not talking about the Shaman/Paladin gear drops.
  • Arena System introduced
  • Honor System revamped
  • The Burning Crusade talents introduced
  • Massive UI changes
PvP Changes

The Arena system was introduced and subsequently has crashed. The Arena is set for small teams to do battle against each other while competing in a ladder type competition among all players within your Battle Group. Currently the Arena is set up for practice matches only. It requires a team of all level 70's before you can advance in the ladder. So the Arena system can't really be judged until after The Burning Crusade is launched.

The other part of the PvP changes comes in the form of a new, but not really new Honor System. Honor decay is gone and Battleground faction grinding has been removed. In their place has come a static Honor system where you never lose points and a Battleground reward system built around completing goals. For example to earn the top rewards for Alterac Valley you may be required to win 30 matches and turn in the tokens to an NPC. The current feedback is that it is much easier than grinding faction which is a great change for casual gamers.

The main complaint with the PvP changes has come from the hardcore rank grinders who were pushing for rank 14 prior to the 2.0 patch. They feel cheated because all their hard work was washed away when Blizzard reset honor back to ZERO. The only thing I have to say to these idiots is; "You got what you deserved. Blizzard announced the changes in plenty of time for you to stop, but you continued to grind. Someday you will wake up and realize what a waste your life has been and maybe then you will go out and do something with it." Yes, that is exactly what I would say and I believe I've just said it.

The Burning Crusade Talents

Every class has had their talent tree updated in preparation for The Burning Crusade and level 70. Of course this has introduced a plethora of bugs and outright overpowered classes. Warlocks kill with a single DOT spell. Paladins can actually do damage now (like they couldn't before???). Pretty much a case can be made for any class being overpowered at this very moment.

This isn't shocking considering how much the game will change when The Burning Crusade hits and people start to reach level 70. WoW wasn't exactly balanced to begin with. In a classes most basic form without tweaked talent sets and green gear there may be balance, but when epics and uber talent templates get involved it is all tossed out the window. I will leave this topic here because I believe it will take a month for the community to adjust to these changes and then it is a mute point because The Burning Crusade will be ready for launch.

Massive UI Changes

With the 2.0.1 patch there has been upgrade to the LUA scripting laguage used for the WoW UI and this takes me to my title for this post. WoW players can't play the game without their easy mode UI add-ons. Decursive, ClickHeal, CTRaidAssist, and on and on and on are now completely broken and most likely won't be fixed. Most of these gamers will scream at Blizzard for the lack of a decent UI to play the game. I will blame the players for letting UI mods dominate their play style.

The cry is heard the loudest in the raiding community. Their precious raid schedules are screwed because easy bosses that they used to defeat in minutes are now wiping their raids without UI mods to hold their hands. I personally applaud Blizzard for finally putting their foot down and forcing people to play their game.

I am happy that it now takes two button presses and manually clicking a target to remove a curse, poison, or disease. I am elated that healers now have to communicate to heal. I am glad that players with skill will now be rewarded with a better experience. I laugh at raiders that suddenly found out that they can't and could never play this game.

This changes the game and I'm glad for it. I have never used anything, but a few minimalistic UI add-ons. A cleaner quest tracker (MonkeyQuest), Auctioneer, and the Census+ mods have been my staples since launch. Everything else has been done through the standard UI. I have never relied on a UI mod to make my class easier to play and I strongly believe I am a better player because of it. I play a Shaman and there is no shortage of UI mods that could of made my life easier.

Conclusion

Let me conclude this with a bold statement. Fuck the whiners. I've whined a good bit in my days and almost always I was told to stuff it. Let me return that advice to the current WoW community. Blizzard has shown a remarkable knack for getting World of Warcraft up and running after a few patch delays just like any other MMORPG out there. The only difference is that Blizzard does it for 6 million users.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Pirates CSG: The only SOE game I would probably ever consider playing!

I do not like SOE. Never have and probably never will. However, they acquired a pretty good CCG/TCG company that they are now using to bring popular card and miniature games to the online space. Since there are very few commercial successes in this area I have to question the move, but none the less I am happy to see some quality coming out of their line up.

Case in point. Pirates CSG Online. This is probably the only game from SOE I would consider paying to play and it more has to do with the fact that WizKids made a damn fine game that SOE is just publishing an online portion of. Even then it will not be in a "buy a virtual booster pack of cards for virtual play pieces at the same price as the real stuff". I would pay a small monthly or reasonable one time fee for access to whatever I need to play.

It is currently in beta so head on over and get the client for free. All you need to play is a Station pass. Unfortunately or fortunately I already had one :P

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dreamblade

If anyone has been following my gaming activities lately they may have noticed that I haven't touched or talked about an MMORPG or even a PC game in a month or so. That is because I have been at my local game store!

I have been pretty much glued to collectible card games (aka. trading card games). Well along with the card games comes another form of gaming nirvana; tabletop miniatures. I decided last week to get into Dreamblade and tonight will be my first full night playing it. Hopefully it will be a ton of fun.

What attracted me to the game is the chess like play. While each player can and often does have different miniatures it does not mean the game rewards the player with the better pieces on the table. This game rewards the person who is a better player.

The rules for Dreamblade are dramatically different than most table top miniatures games. It is played on a pre-defined chess like board. The figures come pre-painted and all rule information is printed on the bottom of the miniature. Pieces move around the board one square at a time and combat is decided via the roll of a set of dice.

With dice comes randomness, but even the newest player learns quickly how to mitigate the luck factor and strike only when the odds are in their favor. There still is the chance for GREAT dice rolls that can turn a game around, but even then a good player will have control of the board to prevent luck from stealing a victory.

This is a great game for those players who don't want massive miniature armies to manage and collect. The warband size is limited to 16 and it is not too often you will find the need for multiple copies of a single high value miniature to be successful. With just a starter set and a quick romp through your local game shop's common/uncommon bin (or eBay) you can piece together a working warband.

Hopefully I will have more to say later when I get done with my night of Dreamblade, but until then have fun!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Turkey Day has come and gone!

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! Along the way I turned 25 and I just have to tell everyone that birthdays around Thanksgiving are the best! I always get the type of pie I want and there is always people in town for a bigger birthday party. Which just so happens to mean more opportunities for presents! Haha...

It was a great birthday and I scored a nice Weber grill. It is one of the old school charcoal grills that Weber is famous for. Maybe I can get in a Weber commercial with it now?

Have a great gaming week.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Playing with my Token Control deck!

I had the chance this past weekend to get a couple games in for The Spoils TCG with my Token Control deck. You can read about it here. I don't have all the cards I need yet, but the deck is playing exactly the way I wanted it to.

The first game I played it against a Warlord/Gearsmith deck which just so happens to be made of my cards. I was teaching another player how to play and Warlord is an easy place to start. Fortunately the person I was teaching was a quick learner and a veteran of many other card games. He picked it up fast and was able to use some of the better parts of Warlord/Gearsmith deck to good effect.

I won the first game, but that was rather expected considering the Warlord/Gearsmith deck was really just thrown together. Still it was satisfying to see my deck performing the way I had expected. My opening hand was full of starting points for various strategies I have worked into the deck. The name of the deck is Token Control and that is exactly how I played the first game. Throwing down with Qutidian Assassinations and Sudden Osprey I was able to get a well built Red Raven through for some massive early game damage. After trading a few creatures I finally was able to punch through for the win.

The second game I decided that we should swap decks so he would have a decent deck to play with. Of course this meant I would have to play the unfinished Warlord/Gearsmith deck. While it isn't exactly like playing sealed or limited play it is still great practice to play with a non-optimized deck. I didn't get a great starting hand with the Warlord/Gearsmith deck, but I was able to stall a few rounds with a Jacque's Trap which stopped an early rush from a Red Raven.

Halfway through the game it was evident my opponent had learned enough about the game to start playing a good bit better. Then I came to realize just how frustrating my deck was to play against. I pulled off a great research combo with 700130x 3lf only to get sucked a Lugubrious Finger Trap. By this time he had been able to build up a very nice Red Raven with several tokens. A Very Big Hat of Invisibility pretty much meant I wasn't going to block it any time soon.

I was able to get some damage across and brought his influence down into the teens, but I was never really threatening to win. He was getting horrible luck with resources for the game. It wasn't until late game when he finally got a second Obsession in play which started opening doors. 90% of the games with my Rogue/Arcanist deck there are 2 Obsession in play on turn two.

He was able to hold onto the Red Raven long enough to finish me off and I was quite pleased to see a new player pick up my deck and be successful with it. Now I just hope to get some more cards and get some testing done against some tougher decks and opponents.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My First Deck Build for The Spoils TCG : Token Control

Totals:
Card total - 80
Characters - 24
Tactics - 30
Items - 10
Resources - 16

Resources:
Obsession - 14
Deception - 2

Arcanist Items:
2x Knobby Stave
2x Napiform Protuberence
4x Very Big Hat of Invisibility
2x Lugubrious Finger Trap

Arcanist Tactics:
4x Voidal Replication
2x Forget
4x Remember
2x 12 Man Brunch of Doom
4x Quotidian Assassination

Arcanist Characters:
2x Sneaking Spitspider
4x Servile Centipede
4x Insidious Ecto-Manipulator
2x Quotidian Ejector

Rogue Tactics:
2x Rapine
2x Yoink!
2x Ambuscade
2x Forced Recruitment
4x Scrag
2x Warehouse Raid

Rogue Characters:
2x Sudden Osprey
2x Heist Planner
4x Red Raven
2x Card Counter
2x Hyperphagic Sarcophyle

How It Plays

The Deck is untested, but here is how I feel it will play. The beginning of the game is all about getting something out on the board. Early game the Rogue Characters play a bigger part because you start with two Deception in play. Heist Planner works well to clean out their deck and start their discard. Hyperphagic Sarcophyle is an even better play because every turn it can do damage without defenders it gains tokens which is important to this build. Qutidian Ejectors are also great in the early game if you are facing fast beat sticks.

The goal by the second turn is to have two Obsession played to meet the majority of your thresholds. With four resources in play the ideal situation to be in is to have a Hyperphagic Sarcophyle or Red Raven on the board. This way you can play an Insidious Ecto-Manipulator and start pumping tokens onto Hyperphagic Sarcophyle or Red Raven. Don't put all the tokens on one card if you can avoid it because a stacked card makes a prime target for destruction or bounce back to your hand.

By mid-game hopefully Knobby Stave will have made an appearance and you will be sitting with a Very Big Hat of Invisibility in your hand. Also you should have a character in play with a few tokens that you can attach the Very Big Hat of Invisibility to. Attack as a covert party and if your opponent manages to throw down a covert defense just pop out Qutidian Assassination to clear path.

Both the Stave and Hat play a big role with Rapine. Once the Stave is depleted simply leave it around to satisfy Rapine's destroy cost.

The rest of the deck is just a varied selection of cards that will help build tokens, allow you to bounce cards, or play a key role against certain situations. Card Counter has a coin flip which puts a token on Red Raven. Yoink! can be used to retrieve stolen or destroyed items.

This deck has a focus, but isn't too overly focused. I think it will fair well against a wide variety of decks. It has a finishing strategy with token built characters and covert items. It has a full line of recycling tactics and support creatures. The biggest concern is being low on resources each turn which is something I may need to work on as I play with it. Now just to get all the cards and get some games under my belt to test it!

----

This isn't a final build yet. I am still considering swapping 12 Man Brunch of Doom for Qutidian Misfire and including a couple Voidal Perversion for more tokens. I just haven't decided what to drop in place of them. Also Voidal Poisoning may be a key card to this deck if I find that my token characters get dumped a lot. If your token creature is about to be bounced or destroyed simply play Voidal Poisoning to dump the tokens for some great effects. Though I think Ambuscade can be more efficient than Voidal Poisoning and is why I have Ambuscade in the deck.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Say Uncle!

My sister-in-law is in the hospital preparing to give birth to her first child which will be my first nephew. It has been quite a journey and I am looking forward to being Uncle Heartless. Now I just need to determine the proper games to distribute as gifts at the proper ages to produce a top-notch gamer by age 13.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Spoils TCG Pre-Release Tournament 11/12

The Spoils

The Spoils is a trading card game developed by Tenacious Games Inc. that is being dubbed as a Tournament Card Game (TCG). The development team is a veritable who's who of the card gaming scene. With names like Jon Finkel, of Magic: The Gathering fame, this card game has been built from the bottom up with competitive play as the core.

On top of making a game that rewards skill while minimizing luck during play the team at Tenacious Games have literally put their money where their mouth is. For competitive play they have developed The Spoils Tournament Experience (STE) where they will be doling out over a million dollars worth of prize money. Not only does that show confidence in their product, but it shows a true understanding of where they plan to take The Spoils as a game.

Casual Gamers?


With all this talk about tournaments and pro-level gaming won't the casual card gamers be pushed out? I have never gotten heavily involved in any card gaming tournament scene, but I have played Magic the Gathering for several years and I’ve dabbled in various other card games along the way. I was able to pick up The Spoils for the first time and within a few games I knew enough to know where I was making mistakes instead of cursing bad luck.

The Spoils plays in such a way that you learn as you go. Every single turn and every single card played brings you one step closer to grasping the possibilities that lie within The Spoils TCG. Immediately upon picking up your first set of cards it is more than evident that the game is filled with many complex combinations.

Fortunately The Spoils has learned from the past of other games like Magic and have improved upon them. There are several common keywords that are clearly defined. The structure of each turn is well documented and well thought out. Throw in a glorious mulligan rule, two starting resources, and you have a quality game on your hands that begins play on the first turn.

A lot of talk around The Spoils has been how it is just another Magic with a few tweaked rules to prevent abuse. What I've discovered is a game that is far more organized and far more rewarding than other major card games. Many luck aspects have been removed and you often find yourself actually playing the deck you built instead of the cards you were dealt.

The Spoils is a refreshing change of pace. What seemed like a Magic clone beforehand has become an entirely new beast to conquer. The cards have a more adult and nerdy theme which suits my interests. On top of that the flavor text is just plain funny… any game that has a card proclaiming “I’d hit that” is a winner in my book.

Pre-Release Tournament 11/12/06

I was fortunate enough to attend a pre-release tournament at my local gaming store, Reality Check Games, this past Sunday. The store owner asked if I could spin up a little event wrap up so here it is.

The tournament started with 10 players in a Swiss format. The initial deck building period was set to 30 minutes which seemed wholly inadequate considering most of the players had no idea what they were doing. Those are the rules though and everyone struggled equally to grasp the deck building concepts. Some players spent more time reading the rules while others spent more time reading cards.

Time rounds began at 40 minutes per round which was extended to 60 minutes due to the fact that we were all struggling to get games moving at a reasonable speed. Once players started clicking with the rules the games started going faster which is a testament to the “learn as you play” flow of the game.

While I don’t have a break down of the rounds I will post the end results.
1. Chris C.
2. Teresa
3. Thomas
4. Josh
5. Matt (aka me)
6. David
7. Dan
8. Meagan
9. Buda
10. Scott
Prizes were given out for the top 8 spots and a consolation prize was given out for 10th; so 9th place was truly the only loser. Even then all 10 players walked away with the cards they played with and an invigorated interest in the game.

The top two players, Chris C and Teresa, were both seasoned Magic players along with the fourth place finisher, Josh. Thomas is a young gun and is the current shop “man to beat” in the World of Warcraft TCG.

Most of the other players also had various gaming experience with card games. Finishing in fifth I have several years of casual Magic game play under my belt. David and Dan cleaning up in 6th and 7th both have varied backgrounds in several games from tabletop miniatures, pen’n’paper RPGs, and other card games.

It was apparent that the more experienced card gamers had the better tactics in winning the games. I don’t want to say better decks because every game I played or watched it was easy to identify where the mistakes were made. Often times a mistake or two resulted in a loss. Unfortunately for me that meant a few too many losses.

Everyone made mistakes. Even the top finishers had their fair share, but with years of card gaming under their belt they knew how to recover and play well enough to overcome to take home a win. And that is the point I want to make. The Spoils is a game that rewards the thinkers and the strategists in all of us. While there is sure to be great deck builds in the future I doubt many of them will make it far without a smart and canny player playing them.

Overall the tournament was fun, well played, and hosted in a great venue. I look forward to plenty of The Spoils in the future. Until then…. wanna touch it?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

My first night playing the World of Warcraft TCG

I finally had the chance to play a few games of the World of Warcraft TCG last night. It was a long night and I learned a lot of lessons about the game. Starting off my deck is horribly underpowered due to the fact I have almost no selection of cards to empower it. My ragtag collection tossed into my Shaman starter deck was no match for any of the decks last night.

Game 1 : Shaman Deck vs. Paladin Deck

The first game was against another player that has never played the WoW TCG. He was borrowing a paladin starter deck with a few borrowed equipment cards. We played most of the game open handed so we could get assistance playing. A few rules here and there were missed and we weren't always applying combat damage correctly, but overall it was a fun experience.

Midway through the game I pretty much assumed I had the win when my hero's health was at 28 and the opponent's was at 12. I was doing consistent damage and felt the game was in hand. This is where I made my mistake. In the WoW TCG you can play any card from your hand face down as a resource. I had been holding onto Healing Wave (Heal 8 damage.) for a while and decided to play it as a resource since he had been unable to damage me for the most part.

Once my healing wave was face down the game began spiraling out of my control. He drew a Wraith Scythe (Heal yourself for the amount of damage Wraith Scythe inflicts.) and attached it to his hero. Combined with an ongoing ability that gave his hero +1 ATK he was hitting for four damage a turn and healing for four damage. Unfortunately I had no protectors in game so I could not intercept the damage incoming to my hero.

With a stalemate between our allies I was unable to out damage his Wraith Scythe's healing power and he was able to just beat me down and seal the deal with a Quick Strike.

Game 2 & 3 : Shaman Deck vs. Alliance Druid Deck

The last two games I played were against a rather competitive player who had a dearth of available cards. It showed in the fact that his deck was well balanced and was not lacking for any card he needed. The basic premise of the deck is fast play protectors that stall the game combined with allies that can retrieve dead allies from the graveyard every turn. Throw in the druid healing spells and it is a beast of a deck.

In each game I was only able to deal a single blow before his army of low cost allies overwhelmed the board. With some bigger tank protectors in play I could hold out until he was able to play Tracker Gallen (Tracker Gallen has +1 ATK for every ally in your party.). With 12+ allies in play his Tracker was a 12 ATK powerhouse. If you attempt to kill the Tracker he simply flips Mezzik Darkspear's ability (Destroy an ally in your party. Do damage to target hero or ally equal to that ally's ATK.). So before combat damage resolves he sacrifices Tracker Gallen and is able to instantly do 12 damage to your hero which you can't protect against.

The only counter that works is to have an instant damage card that can hit Mezzik when he exhausts for his ability. Even then with his ability to cycle allies out of his graveyard you can't keep them out of the game.

Overall it was a great learning experience and even with the 0-3 record I still enjoy the game. If I ever get enough cards I think I have a good strategy to counter the Druid deck.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Response to price gouging on World of Warcraft TCG

The Internet is a scary small place. My local game store owner that I unfairly critiscized in my previous World of Warcraft TCG post for gouging prices on booster packs has responded. He would like me to post the following to explain the situation.
"I sold out of the first run of WoW boosters and starters pretty quick. That was the only merch I got at wholesale price.

The second set of product was just starters, and I only got those because I paid RETAIL cost at a local store and I raised the price from $15 to $20 (hardly gouging, as you mentioned.)

The third set of product was a box of starters and a box of boosters. Again I paid RETAIL for those as well (plus tax, btw) and so I kept the starters at $20 (even though that means I only make about $3 each) because I wanted them to be affordable. I did raise the boosters to $7.50 but not because "we're the only ones in town" but because I had to if I wanted to make the product available.

Lastly, the most recent set of WoW product to come in cost me well over retail, because my distributor is charging me $19 per starter and $6 per booster. I'm keeping the product at my previous price, since I think it's unfair to charge more. Hopefully I'll make some money off of coffee, since technically I'm not making any off of WoW.

I do like being the only store in town that has the product, and I go to excessive lengths to get the product for my customers. I had no idea I was getting slammed for it in the process. Hell, I thought I was doing folks a favor."
I want to thank him for replying and straightening out the situation. I rushed to judgement obviously and posted a gut reaction to the pricing without understanding the distribution end. I can't really tell you how wonderful of a store the owners are running. I have been through a few gaming stores in my life and it is nice to finally have one that really cares about the gamers more than pushing product.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

World of Warcraft TCG

I was finally able to pick up a starter deck for the World of Warcraft TCG at my local game store. I could of just gone to eBay, but I prefer to support my local hobby shops. However, after what occurred last night I may be apt to turn to eBay for future WoW TCG purchases.

My local game store is owned by a wonderful couple. They are friendly and love to game. I have a blast at the store and never have I had a problem with their prices. Sure they are usually on the high end of suggested retail pricing, but that is expected in a traditional brick and mortar shop.

That changed last night when I saw the pricing for WoW booster packs. They were charging $7.50 per pack. That is almost $4 more than what they should be selling for. It was commented that the reasoning was "Because it is the only box in town." (Please note that this is not a quote from the store owner's mouth. It was a comment that was said in store by another patron.) Sure enough every shop across town sold out in October and Upper Deck will not have any more shipping until January.

I understand the supply and demand concept and the need to make a buck, but honestly I have given my full support to this shop and I feel completely ripped off by this pricing. Instead of being rewarded for being a loyal customer (I could of eBayed remember) I get taken advantage of. This is the sort of thing that turns me off from getting excited to play "hyped" card/mini/tabletop games.

Fortunately the starter sets were priced at a cool $20 which is right on target. Funny thing is that the starter sets come with two booster packs, three over-sized rare hero cards, a solid carrying case, and a 32 card pre-made deck. Really if you break it down to price per card the store should be selling the starter sets for $30.

Looking at eBay: entire 24 pack booster boxes are going for about an average of $120. That is $5 a pack. If I didn't know my store owners so well how would I even know they weren't just buying low-ball eBay auctions and reselling for a profit? Luckily I know that isn't the case, but it probably is occurring somewhere out there right now. Brick and mortar shops have their problems, but gouging the customers is not the way to fix them.

I ended up buying a single booster (instead of the 5 I was going to buy) because in the end I still think it is a great store. The owner is away this week, but when he gets back I do have a letter typed that I will be giving him. I am a customer and this is my way of letting him know my displeasure.

Also on the good side of things the store owners stopped people from buying more than one starter set. That allowed for a lot more people to get started in the TCG and that is a good thing. Honestly I think the first guy in the store would of bought all the starter sets if they had let him!

Update:
9 Nov 2006 - Please read the store owner's response here. It was poor judgement on my part to post a gut reaction without really digging into why the booster packs were costing so much. I want to thank the store owner for explaining the situation.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Did you vote today?

Today is voting day here in the good ole' USA and I hope everyone got out and voted! Of course I didn't go out and vote, but that is because I sent my absentee ballot in a week ago. Absentee voting > all other forms of voting. It is like having a voting booth delivered to your home. Ample time to vote, no double/triple checking of my ID, and most of all NO waiting in lines!

I also hope you are out there voting with your wallets for the gaming community. That means not buying titles like Madden '07 and Battlefield 2142. That means not paying monthly subscriptions for games like Star Wars: Galaxies. Stop buying crappy games!!!

I also had the day off from class, but of course early this morning my Internet went out. Some unscheduled line maintenance in my area. Unfortunately all the cabling is buried underground so it takes forever to get it fixed. Luckily the Internet just came back up... just in time for me to cook dinner :(

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Playstation 3 : Installation of games required for better performance?

The Playstation 3 will be coming with the wonderful feature of being able to install games onto the console's hard drive, which should speed up game play. This is the next generation, so why does game play need to be sped up? To say it bluntly, Blu Ray drives are just plain slow in relation to the amount of information a Blu Ray disc can hold.
"Originally, Blu-ray Disc drives in production could only transfer approximately 36 Mbit/s (54 Mbit/s required for BD-ROM), but 2x speed drives with a 72 Mbit/s transfer rate are now available." - Wikipedia
PS3 owners will still be able to play games by just putting a disc in, but it is unknown as of this time how bad loading times will be, or if the speed of game play will be affected. Some of the various magazines that have received their PS3 already have stated load times are not a factor and comparable to the PSP. Unfortunately their PSP is different than the ones I've played. The last PSP I touched took upwards of five minutes to load a SOCOM:Fireteam Bravo map. Maybe five minutes is fast in this generation?

Breaking this down further, it means that with the downgraded version of the PS3, only coming with a 20GB hard drive, we're talking about, on average, being able to install four games at 5GB each. Even then, all the Sony talk is pointing out that games like Africa are using almost 20GB of Blu Ray disc space. A huge game may not even fit on the 20GB hard drive that the basic PS3 comes with!

On top of this we really don't know what version of Blu Ray drives are in the PS3. Does the cheaper package come with a cheaper drive? Will all PS3 drives run at the same speed?

Another good question to ask: if the game files are so much bigger on the Blu Ray discs, won't they take longer to read? The more data there is to pull, the more data there is to uncompress. This means longer load times, or Sony really has some kick ass hardware running under the hood. Even with a $600 price tag, I doubt the hardware speeds up the process that much.

It is quite funny to compare this to the PC market. PC games require an installation to run in most cases. The PC game market (pushed by Micro$oft) is moving closer to "plug and play" console style gaming. On the other side, the console market, is now being lead into the area of installing games to get better performance. How long before consoles are so PC like that they require full installs? And how long before PC games are plug and play?

Honestly there are far too many questions looming over the PS3 to make a launch day purchase justifed. Sony does nothing other than downplay concerns, and then restate how the PS2 dominates the market currently. It is that kind of arrogance (splitting from Nintendo) that won them the crown with the first and second Playstation, but it could very well be the reason they lose this round.

Update: 1 April 07 - Edited post and added labels.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Guild Wars Build Challenge : The Ranger / Elementalist

I would like to kick off a new feature focused on Guild Wars, and on putting together some builds to use in Random Arena combat. I'll start off with a bit of a FAQ.

1. Why random arenas (RA) builds?
I believe there is a large portion of players that compete in RA and often times builds that support this player are tough to find reliably. Also there are far too many "cookie cutter" builds out there that blanket RA and it would be nice to throw some flavor in there.

2. What should a build include?
Equipment, Attributes, and Skills followed by some tips on how to play the build effectively. Bonus points for pointing out weaknesses and counters to the build (since no build is perfect.)

3. Anything we should avoid in our builds?
You should avoid builds that rely on another player to be effective. Also don't come with builds that are common knowledge (Boon Prot monks for example). While not required it is always nice to have builds that are effective without relying on a huge inefficient combo.

4. What are my goals for this?
I like to discuss Guild Wars builds. I am by far no expert in Guild Wars and play it casually. So if you are looking for uber game discussion you can go elsewhere. This is an attempt to build some creative characters to play around with.
-----------

Ranger / Elementalist (R/E) - Burning Poison

Equipment:
  • A Fiery Bow is required for this build
  • A longbow or flatbow for general attacking and a shortbow for closer targets is recommended.
  • Druidic armor for the energy bonus.
Attributes:
  • Expertise 11 + 2
  • Marksmanship 10 + 1 + 2
  • Wilderness Survival 1 + 1
  • Fire Magic 10
Skills:
  • Conjure Flame
  • Mark of Rodgort
  • Apply Poison
  • Troll Unguent
  • Whirling Defense
  • Distracting Shot
  • Escape
  • Resurrection Signet
How to Play:

This is a fairly straight forward build that I have used for a good while. It is similar to many barrage ranger builds, but I've never been a fan of AOE in Guild Wars. This build is really just meant to surprise a soft target by dropping a poison and burn on them during the opening volley allowing you to sit back and use distract shot to stop any attempted save skills.

Prior to combat you will need to Conjure Flame and then Apply Poison to yourself. Since Apply Poison has the shorter duration try to cast it as close to combat as possible. This takes a few matches to get the timing right, but you will get it.

Once combat begins you should start out with Mark of Rodgort on the target of choice. It is best to cast it before your first hit so the combo catches the player by surprise. Your first attack will hit for normal damage + fire damage along with applying both poison and burn for a few seconds. Since you will keep attacking it will apply both effects again until Mark of Rodgort is finished. That is the core of this build and just ensure you watch your mana so you can keep Apply Poison and Conjure Flame going.

Troll Unguent is your heal and to help with interrupts against it make sure to use Whirling Defense first. Also; use Whirling Defense when you are in trouble with melee and hit Escape to get out of town. I usually save Distracting Shot to stop enemies res signets, but it can be used in other situations.

Side Notes:

Distracting Shot is favored over Savage Shot because of mana considerations.

Apply Poison works with elemental modifiers on your weapon. Confirmed in game.

Change Log:
  • 3 Nov - Swapped out Favorable Winds for Troll Unguent. Troll Unguent is an essential ranger survival skill and since I did state that builds should be self-sufficient it makes sense to have the rangers best heal available. Unfortunately there is little room to pump up Wilderness Survival to get a better increase, but it is still a life saver.

Update: 6 Apr 07 - Spelling corrected and labels updated.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Battlefield 2142... broken again

EA has broken Battlefield 2142 again and it has only been out a couple of weeks! Whats sad, is the fact that people are still buying this game. The patch problems with Battlefield 2 were bad at launch, but this mess with 2142 is taking the cake.

From AggravatedGamers:
Earlier today EA released a patch to the EA Downloader which effectively uninstalled EA Downloader and then installed the new “EA Downloader” which is called EA Link. Due to the uninstall it deleted all of the information associated with the cdkey of the game you purchased making the BF2142 that you had installed useless. By useless I mean whenever ANYONE connects to a server they are greeted with the message “Invalid CDKey”. If you are one of the lucky ones to manage to be able to connect to a server eventually 2-3 minutes down the line you will be kicked from the server by Punkbuster telling you that you have a “duplicate key”.
Once again, EA forces something to be rushed out untested and screws a game over. How do I know it is untested? Because I can look at Xfire and see that play time for BF 2142 is down more than %50 today compared to the last week. That pretty much indicates there is a whole lot of people having problems, and that only happens when OBVIOUS bugs are missed.

BF 2142 remains in a sad state. I can't believe I wanted to play it. I am damn glad I didn't though, and I will continue my fight against this garbage as long as EA is dumping it.

Monday, October 23, 2006

More Battlefield 2142 trouble

Things seem to be getting worse for Battlefield 2142. It started off with the spyware and then tripped over the Microsoft security patch issues. Now there is a problem with Comrade, GameSpy's Xfire rip-off.

From Broken Toys;
"Apparently, during the configuration process of Comrade, a duplicate soldier is mistakenly created in the Battlefield 2142 account server and becomes the only soldier you can login to with that name. Of course, this pod-soldier is fresh off the vine and doesn’t know how to use things like, say, grenades, but hey, you can’t overthrow the Battlefield bourgeoisie if you’re sitting on a stat horde of your own now can you?"
Unfortunately the answer seems to be deleting one of the two accounts. Basically, if you gained a bunch of points on one they are gone. Forever. You would think that EA would FIX the problem instead of just diverting people around it. Unfortunately, this is another sad tale in the launch of BF 2142.

I don't know why gamers are buying this game anymore. The news has to have reached them now that this is a bloated, unfinished, and horrible game. Just wait, I know why gamers are buying this! Because they rationalize all the reactions to the bullshit by simply saying; "People are just overreacting and I will enjoy the game." The sad fact is that the majority of gamers are dumb and could care less what part of their soul they have to sell to play the latest game (ok, maybe not all of us gamers are dumb, but sales figures for games like BF2142 may indicate otherwise).

It is depressing that the gaming community is voting with two big thumbs up for BF 2142. It has only encouraged EA to take the next step. Not only is that next step bad for EA, but it is bad for the entire industry. These same dumb gamers that buy games regardless of the bullshit attached will be the same dumb gamers that just stop buying crappy products out of boredom and it will be the crash of '83 all over again.

Update: 2 May, 2009 - Edited post and labels. Removed broken links.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Another Reason to say NO to Battlefield 2142!

From the Dubious Quality blog:
EA released a patch for Battlefield 2142 today, and I noticed this while looking through its ReadMe: "Players who have the Windows security update KB917422 installed may suffer from an application error when running Battlefield 2142. This error can be solved by uninstalling the KB917422 update."

And what does the Windows security update KB917422 do?

From Microsoft: "A security issue has been identified in the Windows Kernel that could allow an attacker to compromise your Windows-based system and gain control over it."
First spy ware; now this. It is amazing what EA is trying to pull over on gamers with Battlefield 2142.

A lot of people are saying that gamers are just overreacting, but the truth is gamers never overreact as a whole. Gamers repeatedly buy bad games and continue to buy games where developers slip in such things as Starforce or the EA spy ware. This just promotes further bullshit from these developers. Starforce was only shutdown because of the Sony BMG DRM fiasco. If that didn't occur, I bet my best two cents that Starforce would still be in full force.

EA will weather this security patch storm and keep on marketing away the concern. They will make their money off the dimwits that haven't done their homework before buying. It's a sad tale that can be sung a thousand times over.

I only hope, with this and other posts, that we've somewhat slowed the advance of spy ware in games.

Update: 5 May, 2009 - Edited post and updated labels.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Voting With Your Wallet

I have a big secret for you. No matter how big or little your website is or how many people read your magazine nothing you say/post/write will have any effect on gaming companies. Your opinion is just that... your opinion.

I strongly believe that our opinions have a HUGE place in the gaming market, but it is obvious that gaming companies think otherwise. There is an endless supply of feedback, ideas, and information hiding in the world in regards to gaming. Most companies relegate it as just noise.

Why do most companies pass it all off as senseless mumbo jumbo? Because gamers vote with their wallets. They tell companies that it's all right to launch buggy and incomplete games. They tell companies that Madden 2020 is what they want. They tell companies that 50 Cents : Bullet Proof is the game of the year.

People want to play their games and they want to play the sequels. These people repeatedly buy crappy games because they've bought them before. They don't stop and think at all about what other games are out there because the game companies have marketing departments. Gamers money is as good as gone the second they see that commercial flash across Monday Night Football.

Games are marketing and there is a ton of proven data to back that up. The most innovative games in the world won't sell more than a handful of copies without advertising. This is why the whole idea of a publisher exists. There needs to be a way to get the game on the store shelves and to tell people how great it is.

I honestly feel the gamer crowd is populated by a bunch of idiots that believe the cinematic commercial for Madden 2007 is actually what they will be getting out of their first generation Xbox. These people will buy a game because the marketing is good.

And this leads me to where we are now with Battlefield 2142. EA knows that people are going to buy it. They know that it is going to sell. So why not throw in some dynamic advertising powered by malware/spyware to make an extra buck on the side? EA knows they are going to get away with it because gamers vote with their wallets. Enough idiots have proven them correct in the past. People will buy the crappiest game that EA can make simply because they can push it out the door with a slick marketing slogan or brand name attached.

Here is my point. Start truly voting with your wallet. Don't buy a game if it even hints of crap like what EA is trying to pull with BF2142. An anti-cheat program in World of Warcraft that keeps the playing field level is one thing. A spyware/malware program that feeds advertisements by sifting through my personal surfing habits in Battlefield 2142 (with no cost reduction or free features for me) is wrong. The only way that EA will stop pulling this crap is when gamers vote with their wallets.

I have little faith in that though. I see it with every Madden release and with the new Playstation 3/Xbox 360. Gamers will pony up cash for anything. It is a sad state and anyone thinking that this sort of behavior will not lead to a gaming market crash is blind. It's just like politics. You fuck with your voters one too many times and they just stop coming back to the polls and eventually even the best candidates don't get votes.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Death In the Family

There has been a death in my family over the weekend so I will be heading out of town for the funeral this week. Have a good gaming week.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The pitfalls of beta testing...

Sometimes, when beta testing, one finds out that a game they had high hopes for is too close to release, with far too many issues, that they begin to slowly erase it off their "must buy" list. It doesn't mean they give up on testing or providing feedback, but its the one time that the dreaded word "delay" appears next to the title. All, in the vain hope that the development team has an idea of how to make a better end product.

Even worse, this particular game has the potential to turn this market upside down and shake out the cobwebs.

Update: 25 Apr, 2009 - Edited post and labels.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Battlefield 2142 Demo has NO UNLOCKS!

The Battlefield 2142 demo is upon us, and EA has dropped a big surprise in it for everyone. There is no way within the demo to gain ranks, or unlock new weapons and equipment. This demo is free advertisement for BF2142, and I don't see how eliminating 95% of the game's equipment is supposed to generate positive buzz!

The unlock system in BF2142 is not like that of Battlefield 2. Every item in a player's inventory has to be unlocked. It only takes a few matches to get enough rank to have some decent equipment unlocked. Starting classes only come with the very basics. Players have to outfit them with unlocks to be successful. Grenades, C4 packs, and many other basic items, that BF players are used to, are all unlocked instead of defaulted at the start. Also, most of what makes BF2142 unique (squad beacon, stealth device, etc.) are hidden in the unlocks.

The demo is going to be very (and I mean very) dull if everyone is forced into fighting with just the basics. It will turn vehicles into un-killable machines! It will make camping the prime time activity. No one can flush enemies out with a grenade, or stealth in to collect a camper's dog tags. It really brings into question whether it is worthwhile to even download the demo. Players will end up playing a ghost of the true game.

What worries me more is that there might be something wrong with the game mechanics, and they are rushing to fix it before launch. To save face, they are putting a demo out and eliminating the part of the game that was causing issues. This is definitely something EA has pulled before with *cough* BF2 patches *cough*. The demo may run beautiful, but what does that mean for the end product?

EA knows how to screw over customers, and someday it is going to bite them in the rear.

Update: 19 Apr, 2007 - Edited article.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

PSM3 Magazine gives PS3 testkit a glowing preview!

The team over at PSM3 Magazine have gotten their hands on some Playstation 3 test/preview consoles. And guess what; they absolutely love it and give it a smashing review!
1) It's quiet like a sleeping baby. A barely audible hum. With the TV on you simply can't hear it at all.
2) It's heavy like a planet. No, really. It's impossible to pick up with one hand.
3) It's shiny like a mirror. In fact, it's impossible to take a photograph of it without the flash spanging every picture into a starburst mess. And therefore it's massively prone to fingerprintage too, with the tiny amount of dust in the office magically attaching itself to its surface in seconds.
4) The PS3 joypad is very light and the tilt system is very responsive. We like.
5) The start up is amazingly fast. And game load times were faster than expected. In fact, PS3 does both at about the same speed of PSP. ie, Long load times due to the massive Blu-ray disc? Nope. Simply not an issue.
6) Andy's fingers kept sliding off the shoulder buttons. But that's because his fingers are slippery.
You would think being the Official PS3 magazine and being some of the first journalists to get their hands on a working PS3 they would be more objective about it. The quality of their writing is worse than most blogs I read. It's an "OMG OMG OMG we gotz a PS3... OMGZ daddy Sony lovez us!11!!" article full of vague features.

How long are the loading times? Last time I touched a PSP it took over three minutes to load SOCOM: Fire Team Bravo.

How responsive is the tilt system? What game is it responsive in? Last time I checked even with the Wiimote it is reliant upon the game being played and the developers ability to program properly.

A heavy system? Heavy usually means expensive...

oh snap!

Well I have to get to class, but this is just amusing to see.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Battlefield 2142 Demo Confirmed for October 4th

From GamersHell: Battlefield 2142 Demo This Week!
"Electronic Arts unveiled that a playable demo for Battlefield 2142 will be launched on October 4th, giving you the chance to try out the next installment in the Battlefield franchise, scheduled to ship worldwide this month. Team play features allow up to 64 players to enter the action on the front lines as part of a formal squad, or work behind the scenes in Commander Mode to direct the strategic assaults of their teammates. With in-game success, players increase their rank and unlock awards, including new weapons, medals and more."
I'll be on the battlefield, of 2142, later this week. I am curious to see if the demo will have advertisements within the game. The beta test I participated in did not have any sort of advertisement, but the places for it were painfully obvious. Empty billboards littered the countryside. Blank signs on the side of buildings were easily noticed. I can't imagine what it will be like with the Fanta girls dancing across them.

Update: 8 Jul, 2007 - Edited post and applied labels.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

My First Raid... Ever

Now that I'm with a new guild in World of Warcraft I figure it is time to start doing some new things. However, what I thought I would be doing is something different than what I did today. I envisioned myself joining guild PvP groups for grinding faction in the battlegrounds, but today a call went out for a pick-up raid into AQ20.

While AQ20 is by far not an "uber" raid it is actually the first raid instance I've ever stepped foot into outside of doing the Molten Core attunement quest. It was spur of the moment and was a multi-guild effort. Fortunately the raid leaders were all experienced with the content and that means everything in organized raiding.

Some people that read my blog may believe I'm just a mad casual gamer. Well I am, but I know how it is to be a raid or die type player. That is all I did in DAoC. If I wasn't doing Realm vs. Realm then I was off doing a dungeon crawl in Darkness Falls or any number of Shrouded Isles dungeons. I broke that habit shortly before Trials of Atlantis launched and have not looked back since. I'm better for it.

I don't see myself becoming a raider in WoW terms, but when the opportunities arise I will take advantage of them. I plan to report on all them also because I know it can be soothing to read about other people's raids and the ph4t l00tz they obtain. So let us discuss my AQ20 raid today.

The group formed within 30 minutes which I think is pretty good for a pick up raid. We were short on priests (one to be exact), but decided to head out anyways. We had four shamans and a couple of druids to pick up the slack. We didn't have any crazy ideas of clearing the entire dungeon... just the first couple of bosses.

The start was disastrous when a rogue thought he could stealth up towards the first trash pull and aggroed a three pull forcing us to zone out and back in. Once we were ready we pulled the trash and made it to the first boss, Kurinnaxx, just fine. First attempt and he was down.
Kurinnaxx Loot

[Vestments of the Shifting Sands]
Plus some minor quest related loot.
Then we initiated the second boss fight and it went smooth as butter also. It involved seven waves of monsters which we handled very well. We held the last wave so we could regenerate a good bit of mana/health before General Rajaxx came barreling down upon us. Our General Rajaxx strategy proved to be perfect and we didn't suffer a single death.
General Rajaxx Loot

Once again a slew of quest related drops.
[Tablet of Strength of Earth Totem V]
You could imagine my surprise when the tablet dropped. Even more my surprise when I rolled a 95 on the first roll! Of course with my luck 95 is never good enough and the last shaman to roll hit a 97.

After the Rajaxx loot was split the only priest had to leave. Of course that started the flood and the raid ended. It was a good raid and only took a couple hours of my time. This is what raiding should be about, but I can't expect every pick up raid to go so smooth. Even without winning any loot I was happy about spending a couple hours in AQ20. I am quite surprised about the whole situation and I may just be going back sometime soon.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Another First For ASCN - EVE Online

Found at Kill Ten Rats.
The first Titan has been built and it was Ascendant Frontier that made it happen. It’s a pretty big deal, and an even bigger ship. Way to go ASCN! Ars Caelestis (ArsC) is proud to be a part of it all.

I’ll try to add more details as they are released.

- Ethic
As a former member of ArsC and still an active member of their community I must say I am proud also. Even though I am no longer playing EVE Online I still enjoy keeping up on my old corp. Good luck ASCN!

Old enemies; New friends

A long time ago on the Azgalor server of World of Warcraft there were two enemies. Tanglefoot, Troll Shaman of the Horde, was constantly at battle with Taozu, Human Rogue of the Alliance. Many forum f-bombs were dropped and I even made a teaser video about Taozu (which is now lost to cyberspace).

Well Taozu had a change of heart and is now fighting for the Horde as a rogue. According to him; the Alliance is just a bunch of whining bitches. Well maybe not those exact words, but you get the idea.

Of course now being a proud member of the Horde, he decided to contact me: Supreme Commander of the Horde (don't hate because I can elect myself too cool offices). During our discussion we came to the conclusion that we really aren't too horrible to be around and I believe a new friendship was born. I see a lot of PvP in our future.

Along with this he also gave me an invite to his guild Extinct. I have been on the lookout for a guild for some time. Since I usually call the lamers as I see them, I have not won many friends on Azgalor.

Anyways, Extinct accepted me and I believe I will enjoy my new home. I miss having people to play WoW with and hopefully I will find plenty of people in Extinct that share my same enthusiasm for PvP.

Friday, September 22, 2006

So I Met an MMORPG Player in Class Today

I haven't really announced it on the blog that I have gone back to school for the fall semester. If you ever met me in real life you would think that I am not a day over 18. Fact is I am approaching 25 and am just starting technical college. I am often confused as just another "kid out of high school", but that does not bother me. Anyways this is all besides the point. I am in school and go to class everyday.

Today we had a lab to do. A simple lab: install Windows 98 SE on our hard drives. While doing the lab I started talking with the older female that was sitting next to me. We ended up talking about routers while we waited for Win 98 to install. She didn't know how to secure her wireless so I told her about a story involving my roommate and how our old neighbor found out he was piggybacking for free on their wireless access. Long story short she said "As long as it doesn't effect my games."

Being the self asserted genius that I am I put some clues together. What game or type of game could be so important that you wouldn't want it to be affected? MMORPGs... duh! What is the most popular MMORPG out right now? World of Warcraft... duh!

This doesn't mean everyone I meet that talks about video games or gaming is automatically thrown in the WoW category, but for this particular instance it was my best logical guess. So I said bluntly... "You play World of Warcraft." Not a question... a statement. Of course I was correct.

Turns out she is also playing in a couple of beta tests. Specifically Lord of the Rings Online and Vanguard:SoH. And here is the meat of this post:
Me: So how's Vanguard?
Her: Sucks. Can't even kill level 1's and the graphics run like crap (she has a moderate gaming rig, but still relatively new). Death penalty is stupid.
Me: I agree.
*senseless jabber occurs about Brad McQuaid*
Me: So how is LotRO?
Her: Great. It's beautiful and runs really well.
Me: I saw a video and I think the game looks boring... combat is slow and unimaginative.
Her: You have to try it because the combat is very fun.
Now these aren't exact quotes, but it gives the jest of what she was saying. On one hand it gave me some insight into LotRO which I was surprised to hear was going so well. I just lack faith in Turbine after Asheron's Call 2. Of course the other side is Vanguard and I must say she confirmed what I've been bitching about all along.

So overall it was a productive lab even if it took me a bit longer to install Win 98 than I had planned.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Mind Control in World of Warcraft PvP

Me: Oh look that priest is casting a spell.
(Priest is casting Mind Control)
Me: Oh I better interrupt that.
(You interrupt with Earth Shock)
*fighting occurs*
Me: Oh look the priest is casting again.
(Priest is casting Mind Control)
(You can't cast Earth Shock yet.)
(You can't cast Earth Shock yet.)
(You can't cast Earth Shock yet.)
(You can't cast Earth Shock yet.)
(You can't cast Earth Shock yet.)
(You can't cast Earth Shock yet.)
Me: Oh shit... there is a cliff next to this Lumber Mill in the Arathi Basin battleground.
{You take a lot of falling damage.)
(You are dead.)
Alliance has taken the Lumber Mill.
Alliance has won Arathi Basin.

Mind Control is still allowed in PvP... that's another one for the "What the fuck were they smoking when they came up with this?" file.

Update: 10 Nov, 2006 - Applied labels.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Vanguard : Watch how boring our game really is!

Ten Ton Hammer has a set of four Vanguard:SoH beta videos up for your viewing pleasure. Unfortunately for Brad and friends they are just four more reasons not to play Vanguard.

Comments
  • The animations are stiff and repetitive. They do not look dynamic or fluid at all.
  • Whack. Whack. Whack. Nothing stellar at all found in the combat portions. Actually the combat looked quite boring and repetitive.
  • Did that big bad wolf just run through solid stone? Yep it did. Next generation graphics... same old problems.
  • Can the camera be any more jerky? It is commendable that they shot in game footage instead of a developer hacked ride by of the game world, but god damn is the camera really that laggy in the game? Were the graphical settings turned up a little bit high?
  • Hello I am "insert NPC name here" and my legs don't work. Once again this is supposedly a next generation MMORPG, but the NPC's still don't move and still need little indicators over their head to get the players attention. After playing with Everquest II's voice acting I was quite surprised by its effectiveness. Even if I just want to skip through the bullshit and get to the quest/merchant/etc. it was still nice that an NPC would beckon for me to come over and talk.
  • Did I mention how BORING combat looked? Just checking.
  • The one thing that I did like was the UI that was in a couple of the videos where they were fighting in the desert. It looked clean and manageable. It was hard to tell what everything did, but it seemed like there was a good and solid base to play the game.
Vanguard:SoH is going to fall flat on it's face. An MMORPG just can't afford to launch with next generation graphics when the majority of gamer's computers are still last generation. World of Warcraft hit on the fact that a lot of potential gamers just don't have souped up gaming rigs. Next generation graphics require bigger budgets and the choice to go with better graphics means you are sacrificing a good 3/4 of your potential customers. No I don't have numbers to back that 3/4 up, but the WoW vs. EQ2 has been more than enough evidence to convince me.

I truly feel sorry for Brad and friends... I truly do.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Welcome to the new Heartless Gamer

I finally got around to cleaning up my blog template and switching over to the new Blogger Beta. It offers easy to use template tools that have allowed me to customize my template without having to rewrite the whole thing myself; which is great!

One of the biggest new features is: labels. I am in the process of retro-updating all old posts to include a label. Hopefully, this will help visitors find older posts on my blog about certain topics with the simple click of a label.

The template is not exactly what I want yet, but its a good start. I will slowly be adding to it with little tweaks here and there. If you see anything acting funny just let me know in the comments.

Update: 8 Jul, 2007 - Edited post and applied labels.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

That Gaming Itch: Call of Juarez MP Demo


That Gaming Itch

Every once and a while I get an itch for some type of game, in some sort of setting, that I don't always see in the spot light. For a while now, I've been wanting to play a good western-themed shooter. There are a couple Half Life 2 mods floating around that have been working on the idea, but none of them have produced a playable mod yet.

The other night I was surfing for gaming news, and I came across a multiplayer demo for Call of Juarez. It is a soon to be released western-themed shooter from Techland and Ubisoft. Without hesitation, I decided to satisfy my gaming itch.

Pros and Cons

I am going to break this down into a Pros and Cons list, as it will be the easiest way to review this game's multiplayer demo.

Pros
  • The setting feels authentic. The two available maps felt like towns right out of a good spaghetti Western.
  • The concepts behind the game modes make sense with the western setting. One map is centered around the Outlaws robbing the bank and the Lawmen defending, while the second map is just a straight up timed team death match (TDM).
  • Graphics are up to snuff. Nothing to complain about. I didn't have a single issue related to graphics and I ran the game on max settings.
  • When zooming in with a weapon you lose focus with everything except what you are zoomed in upon. A unique twist I haven't seen before.
  • Not a single crash to desktop for the entire time I played.
Cons
  • Due to the unbalanced nature of the weapons in game, the two classes, Six Shooter and Rifleman, didn't really provide enough variety.
  • Piggybacking on the first con: the rifle is the most effective weapon in game. It can be fired as fast as the trigger is pulled and does two times the damage of the Six Shooter's pistols.
  • The in-game server browser is trash. It makes Battlefield 2's server browser look like a golden nugget. The update and refresh buttons rarely worked and the game froze several times while at the server select screen.
  • The game suffers from several connection issues. I can't remember ever actually quitting a server. Every game I was forced off by connection issues, or a flat out server crash.
  • The Outlaws are Native Americans (Indians) and the Lawmen are White Men. Hmmmm... anyone crying injustice yet? Racist? Got me, but when I think Outlaw in the old west I'm thinking of Billy the Kid, not Chief Tonka.
Conclusion

In the end, the demo was fun overall when I was able to connect to a server not having connection problems. The action was quick and refreshing. Unfortunately, this game didn't make enough use of it's western theme. Besides the idea of shooting it out in an old mining town as an Outlaw or Lawman, there isn't much else that puts the western in Call of Juarez. Maybe I was looking for horses, trains, or Mexicans. Maybe just something other than White Man vs. Indian. I really don't know, but Call of Juarez just didn't deliver anything that screams "must play".

If you are interested in a western themed FPS, then Call of Juarez can satisfy you for a few minutes. I make no guarantees that the server browser or connection issues will be fixed, but I can't imagine them giving up on the title before some major holes are plugged. Call of Juarez is just another FPS that fails to innovate or impress.

Friday, September 08, 2006

3 Words to Describe BF 2142

1. Buggy as in it crashes a lot and there is several connection issues. Graphically I haven't had many slow ups even when settings are cranked. Of course I always could play BF2 at MAX settings just fine.

2. Confusing as in WTF am I supposed to do? No one on my team communicates. The objectives are poorly laid out for Titan mode. EA needs to take away score keeping and focus on rewarding you for completed objectives. Giving scores for kills just turns the game into a whoever can kill more people wins even if that means fucking my teammates over.

3. Fun so far. I have some good "OH shit did I just knife that dude as he got out of his mech" moments and a few "OMFG that dude isn't on my damn team and I let him cap the silo right next to me!" moments.

More to come when I get some more solid and connected games.

Update: 9 May, 2009 - Edited post.

Beta Crazy! NeverWinterNights 2 MP Beta

Hi everyone,

Congratulations! If you are receiving this email it means you have been selected to participate in our Neverwinter Nights 2 Multiplayer Beta Test! This is just a pre-emptive email so that I can get started getting you guys and gals access to our private forums in preparation for the commencement of the beta test which should be sometime next week. I will be sending a follow up email soon once the build is ready for download. This beta test is under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) which means you CAN NOT discuss the game outside of our private community forums at http://www.ataricommunity.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=445.

To gain access to the private Neverwinter Nights 2 Multiplayer Beta Test Forums, please follow the instructions outlined below:

- If you DO NOT already have an Atari Community Forums account, please go to www.ataricommunity.com and register an account. Once you have created your account, reply to this email and give me your username so that I can add you into the private forums.

- If you already DO have an Atari Community Forums account, simply reply to this email and I will give you access to the private forums.

Please Note: Only send ONE email. It will take some time to get through all of the access requests, and your patience is appreciated.

Gear up that Gnome, dust off that +1 Dagger, and welcome once again to the Neverwinter Nights 2 Multiplayer Beta Test! I hope to hear from you soon! :)

Betatest Administrator
Atari, Inc.

Note: No gnomes were harmed in the making of this email.

Battlefield 2142 Beta Here I Come!

I received my BF 2142 beta key a little bit ago thanks to Fileplanet's 10,000 beta keys for anyone with an account. This means any Fileplanet account, not just paying subscribers.
TIP: If you get to the application screen and there is no SUBMIT button you need to disable ALL of your firewalls. FilePlanet has always had that problem and I doubt they will ever fix it.

Come back for some thoughts and impressions later tonight when I get the game downloaded and installed. I am weary of any non-Fileplanet downloads at the moment, as there are several beta client versions floating around.

Update: 5 May, 2009 - Edited post and updated labels.

Friday, September 01, 2006

It's getting messy around here!

I've decided to go ahead and start cleaning up some of my posts over the last year or so. I will be deleting a bunch of meaningless posts full of broken links. Also I will try to clean up spelling mistakes and grammar issues in a lot of older posts. I figure the sooner I start the faster I will catch up to my current posts and from then on I can hopefully keep it clean.

This is all in preparation for the Blogspot changes that Google is testing in beta right now. Once those go live I will be redoing the sites layout as well as going back and putting all my posts into categories! I'm open to any other suggestions as well; just leave a comment.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

WoW really pissed me off today

World of Warcraft really got under my skin today. Logged in to find that the battlegrounds on my server (Azgalor) were finally working. I like to play in battlegrounds because it offers a lot of PvP action, but at the same time I despise playing in them because I know the glaring imbalances that are present in WoW's PvP.

Warriors, rogues, and paladins are just insane once they have decent gear. Rogues aren't as bad as I once thought because they are soft enough targets that I can damage them respectably. Still can't fight through stuns, blind, sprint, and a number of other unbalancing features that combine to make the rogue, but with a few lucky crits and blowing my instant heal I can get a kill.

Paladins are truly fighters with heals now. Blizzard did a great job in turning the class around. Once upon a time paladins had to complain about lack of damage ability, but that is a thing of the past. Why? Because you seriously can not fucking kill them solo. If a Paladin is in any decent set of gear it takes forever to kill them. With a boost in their damage and a GOOD ranged execute they can lay the smack down before you ever get them anywhere near death. Why? Because of instant heals, invulnerability shield, and SUPER EFFICIENT MANA COSTS FOR HEALING. Also shield healing needs to be nerfed along with the majority of their healing ability. If a paladin shields they need to be unable to do ANYTHING! No more get out of jail free cards and no more "I NEVER DIE" paladins.

Warriors tip the scales though. A warrior should never be considered by their level, but by their gear. If its shiny, sparkly, or looks bad ass then you probably need to stay away. Warriors are just like rogues with enough tricks in the book to beat you down regardless of how skilled your class is. Combine this with great damage reduction, great hit points, and the most insane DPS weapons in game and you have a zero fun zone. I've seen epic warriors go into 5 on 1's and not even blink wiping them out.

Sad fact of WoW PvP is that your best bet to have fun is the twink out a lower level for lower level battlegrounds. At leas then you know you are the strongest of the strong compared to other twinks. But you won't find yourself fighting other twinks, because its always more fun to one shot the non-twinks.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bully Trailer 2 Hits the Web

I am posting about the second Bully Trailer, because I think this is going to be a stepping stone to a better ESRB. In turn, a better gaming market. Even though I hate Jack Thompson, I do agree that the sale of violent video games needs to be controlled.

Bully does not look like it is shaping up into a Columbine simulator, as many people have criticized. The game will still touch on some very touchy subjects. Sexual relations with cheerleaders? Beating up any student, regardless of whether they are "bullying" your character, or not? These are not child friendly messages.

I would play Bully if I was still interested in console gaming, but I am old enough to distinguish between the real world and a game. Most teens and younger children are not able to make this distiction. They do not realize that games can have some lasting effects on their mind. Some teens deal with it better, but for others, it can be the last little shove before going over the edge.

Fortunately, the games really aren't the problem. Its the fact that these kids don't have a better connection to a parental figure. Someone in a child's life needs to see the warning signs and help the child out. Before it turns into a nightmare. Sadly, parenting just isn't what it used to be.

Update: 8 Jul, 2007 - Edited post, applied labels, and removed YouTube video.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

World of Warcraft Patch 1.12

World of Warcraft patch 1.12 today? Yes indeedy feel the needy; for some cross server PvP battles! I won't be able to try the patch out at this time, because I am still downloading it. Fortunately, Blizzard's torrent seems to be working better. Not great, but not horrible.

Update: 8 Jul, 2007 - Edited post. This will be kept as a placeholder for historical value.
Originally, this post contained links to various World of Warcraft patch download websites.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Forget Snakes on a Plane... I have Ants in My Mailbox

If anybody remembers back to my "Another Invasion..." post you probably can guess what this post is all about. Yesterday my wife headed out to the mailbox to grab the mail, but that is not what she found. There seemed to be a massive crawling mass inside the box.

As I ventured out to see what this mess was I pretty figured I already knew. It was ants. Not just a few, but a lot. These are not the type of ants that build anthills. These are the nesting type of ants that find any place they can to leave their eggs sitting around. We assume they are in our walls and all around our house, but we never figured they would invade our mailbox.

The mail was literally covered with ants when I made it to the box. I quickly grabbed the mail and shook the ants off. Quite a few had made it onto my arm, but were quickly brushed away. Of course I was out of RAID and the rest of my ant killing devices. After all its been a long war and the supply line to Home Depot has been congested with high traffic.

Later that evening it was off to Home Depot and luckily we ran into a representative for one of the pesticide companies who was stocking the shelves. We have a new product that was just released for the fall season that is supposedly "kick ass". I also picked up my favorite can of RAID Ant & Roach killer.

Armed with my trusty RAID I cleared out the mail box in a single spray. Up and down and all around I continued to ensure they wouldn't make a return. That was last night. Today I returned to wipe the box clean. I have never seen such a massive lump of dead ants and ant eggs before in my life. All I care though is that they are making great fertilizer now.

The fight is tough, but I plan to win.

Update: 5 Aug, 2009 - Edited post, applied label.

Friday, August 11, 2006

I should really start a political blog for this...

...but I'm not going to waste my precious time with creating a new blog just to vent a little bit about Digg.com politics and the general political atmosphere of the Internet. It is no secret that the Internet has become overrun with far left democrat loud mouths who feel a few thousand hits to their blog turns their opinions into fact. I shouldn't say the net is smothered by these whacko's, but I must say that they are abusing any tool they can to promote their ill will.

Case in point... Digg.com's addition of a World and Business section which just so happens to include Political News and Political Opinion. There is a problem though... the liberal agenda can't seem to understand the difference between News and Opinion. I would link to some articles, but it is by far not worth the effort.

The problem is even larger than just throwing around partisan politics as news. Digg.com is a website that has grown from Tech News into All News. The liberal political blogosphere is spearheading the abuse of the Digg system to deny fair and balanced coverage. It is a true reflection of mainstream media in America which is dominated by the pundits for the liberal agenda. Whoever said the Internet would deliver political freedom was dead wrong. It has provided a system for those who yell the loudest to oppress the rest of us that don't agree.

Since I am a large fan of Digg.com it pains me to see the Digg community so one sided in political debate. Articles that are equivalent to hate speech are passed off as foregone conclusion on the Digg pages. The Digg community is the editor and chief here, but that only goes so far when the community is driven by hate filled individuals. If you don't agree with the haters you are "dugg -1" and soon any iota of balanced debate is destroyed.

On top of this Digg receives visitors from around the world and it is no more evident than in the World and Business section. Digg.com is an American idea, an American company, and most of all only possible because of America's free will. You would think that such ideals would come accross from the Digg community. They do not.

Most international posters that actively engage in political discussions on Digg are American haters. They hate us. They probably hate you if you are American. Read through any comments on a political news story on Digg.com right now. Count how many times you hear about how Americans "don't get it". How American's are ignorant.

Yet day in and day out Digg.com flourishes. A website built on American free spirit, but slowly being occupied by the hate vendors of the world. Maybe people like myself just don't care enough to counterbalance Digg and provide an equal footing for our ideals. Maybe for people like me Digg is best left as just another news site rather than a revolution in Social Bookmarking. Social Bookmarking only works when everyone's voice can be heard.
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